Grindale Engineering Company said it is done with the mobilization of the Vungu Dam water treatment and irrigation project and is ready to catch up with the implementation of the project which is lagging behind for almost five months.
Speaking to Great Dyke News 24 on the sidelines of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Lands and Agriculture tour yesterday, Grindale Engineering Managing Director Grison Muwidzi said the project is behind schedule because of funding challenges adding that they have used their own funds to finance the project.
“By now we were supposed to be given USD$ 8.7 million as a deposit from the government but we only got USD $2.4 million.
“So far Grindale’s mobilisation has used more than USD $3.4 million which is more than the government’s deposit. Before we used to struggle with mobilisation until we got funding in May. We also used our own money which is more than USD $800 000 because we believe in this project.
“I am motivated by the fact that it’s a national project and l am a nationalist and there is nothing satisfying than doing a national project as a nationalist. I am also driven by the passion of being an engineer with experience so as a critical stakeholder, it is also the role of stakeholders to support the government’s initiatives and that’s the reason why we are using our own funds.
“With the way we have mobilised, we think we can go a long way and we should be able to catch up within a month then we are good to go,” he said.
According to the Zimbabwe National Water Authority, (ZINWA) acting Chief Executive Officer Takudza Makwangudze, the government is overwhelmed hence the delays in payments for the remaining deposit, however, he added that the contactor showed capacity when they tendered their bid hence the use their own resources for the mobilisation of the project while waiting for payment.
“The contract signing was done around 28 December 2021 and the site handover was done on the 30th of December. The contractor mobilised quickly, he did the clearing of access roads and the footprint of the dam, and he performed beyond what we expected.
“One of the contractual requirements to support cash flows normally for contractors when a project is starting is the payment of the advance. Our contract deliberately put in a clause which states that the contractors must be given a certain percentage of the contract price as advance payment.
“This will allow site moblisation and start of work, so for this particular project, he applied as per contract ten percent of the total price which is USD$8.7 million according to the contract.
“One of the reasons that he continuously gave was that he has not been paid the full amount of the advance but according to us as engineers of the government, yes he has not been paid that amount by the government but when he bided, he displayed capacity so he must use as much as he can whilst we are pushing the client who is government to pay the rest of the deposit that he is owed.
“We all know government is overwhelmed with a lot of competing needs and we understand, so we are negotiating with that understanding to the contractor that he must do his works with whatever he has and submit certificates to the government so that he can be capacitated,” he said.
He added that the project is supposed to be completed within 36 months and they are six months into the project.
“As what has prompted the visit by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee, it was our own report indicating that we are not happy with the project at Vungu, it’s at two percent and it’s up to the contractor to explain himself but we can see the reasons are clear because he will require an excess of $10 million for him to fully establish the site.
“As it stands, he is behind but he has given us assurance because we ended up writing a letter to him to say he is not performing and he responded, there is a letter, which shows the strategies that he is going to put in place and that’s the reason why you are seeing a lot of equipment here including hired, and it’s allowed because a bidder can win a contract through hired equipment and its allowed as long as he declared that it’s hired.
“Most of the equipment that you are seeing here came a few days ago, it’s because of our last meeting with him on the 18th of June where we told him to push the programme. We still think he has got the capacity despite the financial issues that he is raising.
“He has also brought in his own equipment which he bought for this particular project and this gives us hope that he is likely to resurrect and catch up with progress,” he said.
The resident engineer for Vungu Dam Funwell Zivave told the Great Dyke News 24 team that the completion of the project will be determined by the availability of resources.
“Once complete, the dam is going to irrigate three places, in Silobela District which are Nthobe, Nyakwathi, and Sikunyana area and these are under two chiefs. The project is estimated to be complete within 36 months and everything must be in place by then including the irrigation facilities.
“The completion will depend on the availability of mainly financial resources because as far as l see, the contractor has already mobilised and if funds are availed, we will be able to complete the project within the targeted period,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Lands and Agriculture aborted the project tour at the beginning of the tour with the Portfolio Chairman Justice Wadyajena saying he was not happy with the progress hence he asked the members to go back into the bus.
“ If we had known that the dam was still on this stage we would not have come here because we will be wasting government resources, imagine if the speaker hears that we traveled to see a two percent progress, “ he said before ordering other parliamentarians to leave.
In 2021, the government announced that it had set aside ZWL$10 billion for the development of 10 major dam projects as part of long-term plans to support small-holder agricultural irrigation, boost food and agricultural production, and harness water for industrial and domestic use in major towns, cities and growth points and Vungu is one of them.
The government says the dam construction drive also aims to climate-proof agriculture and reduce heavy reliance on rain-fed farming.
Vungu Dam is located in Zibagwe, Midlands Province and it capacity is 118 million cubic meters with an estimated cost of US$87 million.