When things go wrong in a project, government is often the only one who is blamed for the failure while those responsible are not frequently put on the spotlight, Infrastructure, Science and Technology Minister Nonofo Molefhi lamented.
Molefhi made this expression of grief last Thursday when deliberating a speech during the handover ceremony of the Francistown stadium. He said the government especially his ministry was bashed from left, right and centre with people enquiring when the stadium was to be ready.
“As government, we get blamed for failed projects when in fact it is not the administration which does the physical implementation of these projects. We award tenders and it is the private sector that let us down,” said a visibly worried Molefhi.
But, of course, the buck stops with the government, he said. He said the government will not hesitate to take punitive measures against the contractors who failed to do part of their obligations in the projects implementation.
Molefhi added: “We are not going to blink an eye in dealing with contractors who failed to do their part of the obligation. We are not going to blink an eye. This is done as part of the certain reforms currently taking place in the ministry.”
The lanky legislator said the government is building teams within the ministry to strengthen the ministry’s project management capabilities. He said the exercise is being implemented to curb some of the failures experienced at the project that took close to eight to be finished.
Construction of the Francistown stadium started in 2008 and was initially scheduled to be completed in 2010. Instead, Molefhi’s ministry was engaged in protracted disagreements over the quality of works and designs with the original contractor and project consultants.
“As we develop internal capacity, we are going to phase off the contracting of these services to the private sector because we believe that in certain instances we are not getting value for money,” he said.
“And the government gets blamed. As politicians, we are bashed. In some instances as politicians, we are being accused of being shareholders in some of the companies which fail the public. We are being accused of taking money under the table. This is unacceptable. We are not going to allow it to continue. And we are going to be ruthless in dealing with contractors who exhibit such kind of a behavior,” said an unapologetic Molefhi.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Infrastructure, Science and Technology Dikagiso Mokotedi said the government had to take the difficult but necessary decision to terminate contracts with both the contractor and consultants.
Mokotedi said design deficiencies made it difficult for the contractor with such an inexperienced key members of its management to carry out the works. Both the contractor and some of the consultants struggled to cope with the complexity of the project from the onset.
He said both the contractor and consultants were led by a team of young inexperienced personnel for such a large and complex project of constructing a 26 500-seater stadium that ultimately becomes the largest of them all in the country.