By Kelvin Tembo
The Government is refuting claims that it has failed to pay off a contractor working on the rehabilitation of Chakazi Bridge in Mzimba district.
Works on the bridge which was washed away in 2017 have stalled forcing communities around the area to find alternative routes.
During the launch of the rehabilitation works in 2018, the then Minister of Transport and Public Works Jappie Mhango indicated that the project would be implemented in two phases with the first phase involving demolition of the remains of the old bridge.
The demolition phase was initially slated to take 4 months and the second phase involving actual construction of the bridge was expected to take 7 months.
Such is currently not the case with no work being done on the ground.
According to Mzalangwe Ward Councillor Dan Nkosi, after noticing that there was no progress on the site, they contacted the contractor who informed them that works would only resume after the government paid them.
Reacting to this, CEO of the Roads Authority Emmanuel Matapa stressed that the contractor was paid and works have not been abandoned.
He disclosed that, the second phase has been completed and an approval for commencement of the third phase is yet to be granted.
“That rehabilitation of the bridge which was pegged at K1.6 billion and funded from fuel levies was deliberately divided into three phases due to the limited nature of Fuel Levy Funds,” Matapa further explained.
The first and second phase of the project, has however been completed, thereby placing the completion rate at 65 %.
According to Matapa major work remaining on the site is construction of a bridge deck.
This phase is awaiting approval of a contractor by the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority.
Before it got damaged, Chakazi Bridge was used as a route for people heading to Mzimba boma from Euthini, Mbalachanda, Bulala, Endindeni and surrounding areas.