Friday, May 30, 2008

Chigunta attributes poor road network to budget cycle

Chigunta attributes poor road network to budget cycle
By Joan Chirwa
Friday May 30, 2008 [04:00]

FAILURE to improve Zambia's road network largely stems from the nature of the budget cycle, University of Zambia (UNZA) Development Studies lecturer Dr Francis Chigunta has observed. Dr Chigunta said the solution to country’s poor road network was revisiting the budget cycle while reducing on tendering procedures for road works. He was commenting on the 2008 Africa Economic Outlook (AEO) which indicated that Zambia currently faces numerous challenges such as the improvement of its weak infrastructure.

“The road network in Zambia is horrible both in rural and urban areas. The problem is not lack of money,” Dr Chigunta said. “Last year, the Minister of Finance Mr Magande announced that the government could not spend over K900 billion. This is a lot of money for a country like Zambia with serious socio-economic problems.”

The 2008 AEO report stated that inadequate infrastructure is one of the main obstacles to increasing economic growth and development in Zambia.

The report, released last week, noted that the lack of infrastructure applies to almost all critical economic areas such as transport, energy, water and sanitation, adding that the road density was still very low while the main export corridors suffered from overloaded trucks and heavy traffic.

Dr Chigunta further said the bureaucratic tendering processes also contributed to delays in the implementation of infrastructure projects.

“Related to the issue of not having the money released early is the complex and bureaucratic tendering processes and procedures. The budget cycle is too short such that by the time the money is released to contracting firms, time is gone,” Dr Chigunta said. “This has not been helped by the lengthy tendering process. The solution here is to revisit the budget cycle and to simplify the tendering procedures.”

And works and supply permanent secretary Colonel Bizwayo Nkunika on Tuesday said lack of adequate capacity in procurement systems constrained the implementation of road works despite money being allocated in the budget or sometimes released to the ministry.

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