Hre-Byo Road dualisation resumes

THE dualisation of Harare-Bulawayo highway has gathered pace, with a five-kilometre stretch close to the Norton Toll Plaza now set to be completed next month, marking the resumption of work on the long-delayed project.

The government has injected US$3,2 million to resuscitate the project, which had been mothballed owing to budgetary constraints occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Part of the highway is now undergoing pavement and asphalt concrete surfacing.

In addition, at least four more traffic lanes are being added to the Norton Toll Plaza on the Harare-bound traffic lanes in a development geared to “significantly improve the traffic movement at peak periods”.

Overall, this year Government has set aside $50 billion for road maintenance and rehabilitation works countrywide under the Emergency Road Rehabilitation Programme 2 (ERRP2).

A report tabled in Cabinet by Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Felix Mhona recently shows that over 10 400 km of road have undergone rehabilitation since commencement of ERRP2 last year.

On completion, the programme is envisaged to have covered at least 40 000 km of road.

The rehabilitation works have covered reconstruction, resealing, gravelling, grading, drainage structure construction, pothole-patching and bush and verge clearing.

Minister Mhona told The Sunday Mail that current work on the Harare-Bulawayo highway dualisation is scheduled for completion towards the end of August.

“The current works resumed in February 2022 and scope of works entails construction of 5km road pavement layers and asphalt concrete surfacing, including road markings and signage.

“The project cost is US$3,2 million.

“The progress to date stands at 2,2km,” he said.

“The current scope of works is targeted to be completed by end of August as a part of trying to decongest the tollgate, as the ministry is also embarking on the Norton Toll Plaza expansion to add four more lanes on the Harare-bound traffic, and this will significantly improve the traffic movement at peak periods.”

In Cabinet, Minister Mhona said significant work on roads was set to be undertaken this year.

He, however, cautioned that volatility of the Zimbabwe dollar was affecting progress.

“The total budget for ERRP2 for 2022 is $50,7 billion,” he said in his quarterly report.

“This is a sum total of Treasury’s contribution of $33,7 billion and the Zimbabwe National Road Administration Authority (Zinara) contribution of $17 billion.

“Cabinet directed Treasury to roll over outstanding disbursements amounting to $8 billion. This was meant to clear outstanding Interim Payment Certificates (IPCs) for works done in 2021. Of this amount, Treasury has to date released $3,7 billion to the Centralised Pool Fund managed by Zinara, $1 billion to Department of Roads (DoR) in April 2022 and $780 million to District Development Fund (DDF) as at May 31, 2022.”

Treasury, he said, was still processing $500million and $1,4 billion to be disbursed to DoR and DDF, respectively, leaving an outstanding balance of $620 million that was set to be cleared by the end of June.

Minister Mhona said Zinara had released $3,3 billion to road authorities in all 10 provinces.

Progress

In Harare, 142 km of roads have been rehabilitated out of 679 km targeted during the entire cycle of the ERRP, which runs for 36 months to end of next year.

Government has funded the rehabilitation of 19 km in Bulawayo against a target of 109 km.

At least 1 031 km of roads have been spruced up in Manicaland Province against a target of 4 037 km, while in Mashonaland Central 1 744 km have received attention from the 9 319 km targeted.

Road works in Mashonaland East Province have surpassed the targeted 1 211 km after the completion of work on 1 437 km so far, with the bulk of the rehabilitation work going towards grading and spot gravelling.

Furthermore, in Mashonaland West Province at least 2 467 km of road have been covered against a target of 5 687 km, while in Masvingo Province a total of 906 km have been rehabilitated against a target of 6 098 km.

In Matabeleland North and South Provinces, 427 km and 1405 km have received attention against respective targets of 899 km and 5 257 km.

At least 666 km of roads have been refurbished in Midlands Province from the targeted 3 785 km.

Bottlenecks

Minister Mhona said in May provincial programme steering committees (PSCs) undertook monitoring and evaluation visits to assess the quality of work being undertaken by contractors.

Monitoring teams concluded that most road authorities were facing procurement challenges as a result of bureaucracy, delaying implementation of ERRP2 projects.

Government responded by co-opting the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (PRAZ) into the PSCs.

“Delays in settling amounts due to contractors has affected progress in implementing ERRP2 projects, resulting in road authorities scaling down on the scope of works, total withdrawal of services and astronomical contract variations beyond the stipulated 20 percent margin.

“This has led to loss of confidence, thereby tarnishing Government’s reputation, resulting in low participation in the tendering process,” added Minister Mhona.

“The Zimbabwe dollar volatility aggravated by late disbursements of funds and payment of contractors is impacting negatively on the implementation of the programme.”

(The Sunday Mail)