THE nation is looking forward to the national Budget with great anxiety, anticipation and different expectations.
Public service workers are undoubtedly expecting relief from the wage freeze, although this is most unlikely considering that this sector is already consuming more than 52 percent of the Budget in emoluments.
This state of affairs is unsustainable. More money must be invested in wealth creation so that the benefits of economic development are spread evenly in the society.
It is for this reason that the current infrastructure development must also serve as a conduit for redistribution of wealth by ensuring that as many Zambians as possible are exposed to the benefits that will accrue from the construction industry.
That is why Transport Minister Yamfwa Mukanga should spare no effort in ensuring that corruption or indeed any form of shady dealings do not grace the award of contracts in construction.
There is a general perception supported by demonstrated cases indicating that contracts are not always awarded to deserving contractors.
We expect the relevant Ministers to institute transparent and open investigation to determine the circumstances under which unregistered contractors were awarded substantial contracts which, according to all accounts, are sold to foreign contractors.
Only last week, the National Council for Construction revealed that over 20 construction firms that have been beneficiaries of Government jobs were operating illegally.
This means that these 20 companies have irregularly benefited from public contracts in circumstances that demand urgent investigation to ensure exposure as a deterrent for any future irregularities.
How can a company without proper documentation participate in Government construction jobs?
It is a national imperative that the scourge of corruption is combated and eliminated at all levels of our society, most of all in the wealth creation sectors.
There is no doubt that corruption in the award of construction projects results in shortcuts and poor quality performance. This is necessary to create a cash overhang from which “loot” for sharing is created.
Instead of being defensive, we expect that Mr Mukanga will engage with the NCC, Engineering Institution, quantity surveyors and all the relevant organisations to study and close all the loopholes that undermine and negate the need for competitive tendering.
Corruption makes doing business expensive.
In case of Zambia, the country’s national resource envelope is so limited to allow people with deep fingers to participate in the procurement processes.
The minister of Transport has a responsibility to investigate the allegation of corruption instead of simply dismissing the accusations of graft.
An enabling environment in the construction sector should be created so that participating contractors use the bidding system as a true measure of the quantum of work and financial outlay from the Government.
Unless true value is invested in the massive infrastructure programme being undertaken by the Government, the exercise will result in third-rate roads and public institution which will crumble before their real lifespans.
Already many roads have been built without drainage and requisite support system because these have been eliminated in order to cut costs and increase profit.
We therefore expect that all the professional organisations in the construction field will assist Government develop effective tender and evaluation systems that will be accompanied by quality control measures to ensure that the country invests effectively.
We urge Mr Mukanga to look into the allegation of corruption in the awarding of road contracts instead of dismissing accusations at face value.