Thursday, June 13, 2024
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TAME STUBBORN CONTRACTORS

WE AGREE with a consortium of contractors and suppliers on the Copperbelt that Government should do more to actualise the policy that main contractors of government projects should sub-contract 20 percent of the works to local contractors.

It is frustrating to see foreign and some local main contractors audaciously refusing to comply with President Edgar Lungu’s directive that 20 percent of all big government contracts be sub-contracted to local companies.

It is difficult to understand why these contractors are resisting the directive.

The policy was meant to achieve two things – to empower local contractors with money to maintain their workers and to enable the big contractors to build the capacity of the small contractors through the transfer of knowledge and skills.

This way local communities and the local business community will appreciate the importance and benefits of these big projects.

Unfortunately, there is no framework for monitoring and enforcing the directive because it has no statutory backing.

The big contractors are aware that there is no law under which they can be punished if they refuse to give 20 percent of their government contracts to local contractors.

We are, however, happy that when President Lungu was on the Copperbelt last weekend he learnt for himself that the big contractors had not implemented his directive.

The President breathed some fire on some officials of one of the foreign companies contracted to carry out multi-million dollar infrastructure projects in the province for failing to give 20 percent of the works to local contractors.

When the government came up with this directive it expected contractors to comply as partners in its quest to improve Zambia.

It is through such measures the government is expected to create jobs for Zambians and mitigate the externalisation of the huge amounts of foreign currency by foreign contractors.

We share the frustrations of the Consortium of Local Contractors and Allied Suppliers on the Copperbelt, which has threatened to report truant contractors so that remedial action is taken.

Speaking in an interview with ZANIS in Kitwe on Monday, the consortium’s president, John Chilupula, said some contractors were boasting that they were untouchable and would ignore the directive to engage local contractors.

He cited one of the construction companies that were not even boasting that they were untouchable. Mr Chilupula said the consortium would now focus on the major projects in progress that included the Kafulafuta Dam, the C400 township roads project and several others to ensure that its members were fully engaged.

The consortium will now work with State House special assistant for project monitoring and implementation Andrew Chella to ensure that the President’s directive was adhered to.

This is laudable. The 20 percent sub-contracting directive is expected to ensure that the benefits of big government contracts awarded to foreign contractors trickle down to local contractors.

Since these smaller contractors will employ Zambians the money they will earn will boost household incomes and therefore help reduce poverty.

Following the renewal of the directive by the President we do not expect to read stories about stubborn contractors refusing to award 20 percent of their government contracts to local contractors. It will be a betrayal of a good policy meant to deliver mutual benefits.

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