By SIMON MUNTEMBA
A NUMBER of engineering firms are on the verge of bankruptcy due to unpaid arrears owed to them by government.
Government is owing Consulting engineers’ huge amounts of money and that if nothing is urgently done most may close due to bankruptcy according to the Association of Consultanting Engineers of Zambia (ACEZ).
ACEZ chairperson, George Sitali has also noted that there was need to harmonise the operations of the Road Development Agency (RDA) and the National Road Fund Agency (NFRA).
Speaking when the ACEZ met Minister of Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development, Charles Milupi yesterday, delegation leader Mr Sitali bemoaned the huge debt owed to them by Government.
“The consulting engineers are owed a huge amount of money by the government and if nothing is urgently done most companies may close due to bankruptcy,” Mr Sitali said.
He also urged the Minister to help in the area of taxation of Consulting engineers firms.
Mr Sitali said the Consulting engineers paid value added tax, withdrawing tax, and company tax a development which was too much on all Consulting companies.
Meanwhile, Mr Sitali has appealed to Mr Milupi to help harmonize operations of the RDA and NFRA.
Mr Sitali told the Minister that there was an anomaly in the operations of the two agencies in that RDA which certifies works was not responsible for payment while NFRA which had nothing to do with certification of works was the one that is in charge of payments.
He explained that the two agencies were also superintended by different ministries.
In response Mr Milupi said his Ministry would engage necessary stakeholders to ensure that concerns raised by the Consulting Engineers are resolved.
The Minister urged the association to ensure that there was quality in the construction sector by upholding professionalism in the construction sector.
“This administration is determined to bring sanity in the construction sector. We will not accept overpriced construction projects and for that, we are calling upon professionals like yourselves to help us by ensuring that all projects you certify are of quality,” Mr Milupi said.
He also said that Government did not want to see the premature failure of newly constructed public infrastructure.
Mr Milupi reiterated that the administration of President Hakainde Hichilema would continue with infrastructure projects even with limited resources.
“We will continue with national infrastructure projects although the Government has no money. We will do this by encouraging Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs). This we will do bearing in mind that we do not contract any more debt for the country,” Mr Milupi said.
Mr Milupi also said his Ministry would engage his counterpart at the Ministry of Finance on how best to address issues of Taxation on Consulting engineers firms.
Meanwhile, Minister of Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development Charles Milupi said he was elated with the enthusiasm from President Hichilema to bring sanity to the construction sector, especially in road construction.
Speaking during his first media conference at State House on Thursday, President Hichilema said his government would not tolerate overpricing in the road construction sector and shall also not allow construction of substandard roads.
The Head of State went on to say that the new RDA board would work towards achieving that goal.
Mr Milupi has said he had taken the President’s concerns seriously adding that he had already started working towards achieving the new dawn government’s agenda of having roads constructed at the right cost and to the specified quality.
The Minister said it was for this reason that he directed the RDA to come up with per unit cost of constructing roads and that he expects the agency to make their submission by next week.