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NHLANGANO-SICUNUSA ROAD COST SHOOTS TO E1.2 BILLION

By ZWELETHU DLAMINI | 2021-12-05

Finally the unfinished Nhlangano-Sicunusa road (MR13) will commence as the ministry of public works and transport on Friday announced that Inyatsi Construction has been awarded the E647 million tender for the completion of the road.

According to the ministry, Inyatsi was the only company that tendered for the construction of the road despite other companies being invited and having conducted a site inspection.
The ministry further announced that drainage and protection works will begin this month to avoid further damage by the rains while full-scale construction will commence in January 2022.

The ministry of public works and transport acting communications officer Lungelo Nkambule said the project is expected to be completed in the next 18 months.
“The project contract shall be for E647 378, 644.00, implementation period is 18 months. Inyatsi Construction should be done by July 2023.
The tender that the ministry issued was a design, finance and build public private partnership tender that invited Category C1 registered contractors with the Construction Industry Council.

The aforementioned category had a total of seven contractors at the time of tender in 2020. At tender briefing, all the seven contractors participated, but at tender submission, only Inyatsi Construction submitted a bid. Inyatsi's tender was evaluated and found to be compliant with the requirements of the tender document, hence award was made,” she said.

This brings the total cost of the road to E1.2 billion as this adds to the already spent E576 101 574.86.
The Nhlangano-Sicunusa road project started in July 2013, with an aim of developing the area. The project is expected to connect Sicunusa and Nhlangano as well as Gege Border Post.

The 42.5km road was initially expected to be finished by July, 2017 but could not due to some challenges, like the withdrawal of Abraham Couto, who was assigned to work in a joint venture with Kukhanya Construction. In August 2018, the project was reported to be 68 per cent complete.

Following the problems that resulted to the project being undertaken at a snail’s pace the Minister of Public Works and Transport Chief Ndlaluhlaza Ndwandwe suspended the construction of the road.
There were a lot of suspicious activities that supposedly happened during the construction of the Nhlangano/Sicunusa road.
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) recommended a forensic audit because it believed it would reveal some allegedly corrupt activities that had taken place during the construction.

The nation is still awaiting a report from the consultant that was eventually engaged.
According to the recommendation of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), three government departments were supposed to submit a report of the audit within six months after the committee’s report was adopted by Parliament.

This followed that the PAC could not get answers on the project and a site visit conducted on June 20, 2019 which raised more questions than answers.
“Since the committee could not gain access to a key witness who had deep knowledge about the project and also due to the fact that the committee does not have enough technical capacity to investigate all aspects of the project, the prime minister’s office, ministry of public works and transport as well as the ministry of finance should institute a forensic audit into the project and submit a report to the honourable House within six months after adoption of this report failing which they (controlling officers of the three ministries) will be charged with contempt of Parliament,” reads one of the recommendations by the PAC.

The then PAC Chairperson Phila Buthelezi on October 30, 2019, said they recommended such audit because they could not probe some matters related to the construction of the road.
He made an example of the refusal of Senate President Lindiwe Dlamini to appear before the PAC on the matter.

Forensic

He said because they could not get to the bottom of the matter, they would refer the matter to the forensic audit. Buthelezi said Dlamini was a key witness who was going to help the PAC to find out what had happened on the project. Government was said to be losing E5 million per month on the project.

In October 2020 the forensic audit was stalled and the ministry of public work and transport blamed it on lack of funds.  Ministry of Public Works and Transport Under Secretary Naniki Mnisi, at the time,  said after consultations with the ministry of finance and the prime minister’s office, they concluded that the three ministries should work together to ensure that the  audit is eventually instituted. “We will wait for funds. We will let you know as the media when we have the report.

We are going to employ an auditor once we have received the budget. It is impossible to conduct it without the budget because the consultant fees are high. The budgets are itemised I think it was a shortfall that there was no budget allocated for the audit. With the help and support of the finance and the prime minister’s office, we expect to get the budget then we will be able to engage the consultant,” she said at the time. Sources close to the matter revealed that the consultant had completed the report and may soon be presented to the minister of finance.

However, the ministry of finance communications officer when asked about the report referred questions to the ministry of public works and transport saying it was better placed to respond. Minister of public works and transport Chief Ndlaluhlaza Ndwandwe said he has not yet seen the report or heard of it.

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