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SICUNUSA-NHLANGANO ROAD: FROM E466M TO E899M

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MBABANE – Is this a historic financial draining project?  The Sicunusa-Nhlangano road will now cost the taxpayer E899.66 million to complete.
Government has not deferred the project but wants to redesign, supervise and construct the 43.5 km-kilometre road, which was incomplete when the contractor, Kukhanya abandoned the site.


Work started in 2014. It has been learnt that the costs for the road have now increased by 48 per cent from its initial budget of E465 990 202.85. Now, the estimated cost is E899 666 000.


It has increased by E433 675 798 – E433.67 million.
The actual expenditure for the project as reflected in the government budget estimates indicates that a sum of E532 701 000 had been spent on the project by March 31, 2019.


However, Auditor General (AG) Timothy Sipho Matsebula’s report for the current financial year gave a conflicting figure.
He said his audit established that government spent E576 101 574.86 on the incomplete project.


Budget estimates from the years from April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2023 indicate that government is expected to have paid E765.66 million by March 31, 2020.
Minister of Finance Neal Rijkenberg said he would respond to our questionnaire at a later stage.
Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Public Works and Transport Khangeziwe Mabuza could only say the project was not continuing per se but they would what was never finished there.
In the current financial year, government set aside E80 million for the project, which would be used to pay the final account of Kukhanya-Gabriel Couto joint venture.


Gabriel Couto pulled out of the project.
Govt given 3 options


Eswatini News reported yesterday that government was given three options for the reconstruction of the road.
First, it was urged to cancel the contract with Kukhanya altogether or allow this contractor to continue with the project in dribs and drabs.


The last option was to adopt the much favoured principle of Public Private Partnership (PPP), which would see another contractor taking over the project.
Minister of Public Works and Transport Chief Ndlaluhlaza Ndwandwe said various options were being considered for the project to continue.


“This is money we were allocated after we said we wanted to continue with the project for this financial year,” said the minister.
Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Phila Buthelezi said government should give clarity on the E80 million but assumed it was budgeted for the settlement of Kukhanya’s account.


However, the MP, who also doubles as the deputy speaker, mentioned that the PAC recommended the contract should be terminated.
Finish project - minister
In his budget speech, Rijkenberg said it was necessary to complete the project.


The minister mentioned that despite challenges faced during the implementation of the project, it, however, remained imperative to complete it.
The Times SUNDAY reported in its last week’s edition that the taxpayer had a huge bill to settle for the construction of this road.
For this road, it turned out that government owed two foreign financial entities a sum of E177.89 million.


This is contained in an audited statement of public external debt for the year ended March 31, 2019.
It is stated in the documents that government owes the Arab Bank of Economic Development in Africa (BADEA) a sum of E100 million (E100 016 191.80) in loans secured for the construction of the road.
EmaSwati also owe the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) a sum of E77.87 million for the same project. The exact amount owed is E77 977 059.58.


The BADEA’s loan term of payment, which includes capital and interest, is repayable in 30 constant and equal semi-annual payments that commenced from 2009.
The last instalment shall be paid in 2028.
The OFID loan starts from 2009 to 2034.

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