Bulawayo City Council’s (BCC) road network is decaying. The reason why it is like that is because the local authority does not have money to fix it.
The Government recognised the failure by local authorities to rehabilitate and maintain their roads and chipped in with the $33,6 billion Emergency Road Rehabilitation Programme Phase 2 (ERRP 2). That was money that was available for all road authorities across the country to utilise. We expected all of them to rush to not only access their shares but also to spend them on fixing their roads after years of decay.
BCC has told us multiple times that 70 percent of its road network has outlived its lifespan and it needs US$700 million to fix it.
However, we reported yesterday, the local authority has failed to use even that free Government money to do work that it should have done using its own resources. The city was allocated about $625 million for the rehabilitation of its estimated road network covering 2 460km.
Government released $217 million and the rest of the funds was to be disbursed after initial acquittals had been made, but council only, we emphasise, only, used $21 million of that amount to attend to a few roads.
Briefing Bulawayo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Judith Ncube on Wednesday, BCC assistant director for engineering services Mr Methusi Dibidi revealed that council only utilised 10 percent of the disbursed money.
“We were allocated $625 million last year and from that allocation the intention was to do resealing and overlay works and the target length was 10,2km, but what we ended up achieving was 2,7km. For the reseal works at the start of the programme, the target length was 21,1km, but the actual length achieved was 4, 4km,” he said.
“Overall, if we compare the target and what was achieved, we only managed to do 22,7 percent of what we intended to do at the start of the programme.”
Mr Dibidi said 17 roads were earmarked for resealing and overlay works.
“In terms of financial update, we were allocated $625 549 822 last year. The amount received was $217 million, which was the expenditure at the end of April. The expenditure in terms of percentage allocated we only spent about 35 percent,” he said.
Mr Dibidi blamed obsolete equipment, delays from suppliers of bituminous material, instability in terms of prices and fluctuations in exchange rates for the local authority’s poor performance.
Minister Ncube was, like all Bulawayo residents must be, angry that BCC’s record of failure is persisting, even when provided with funding.
“I am quite disturbed by the presentation made by the council engineer,” she said.
“From the report, there isn’t anything to talk about. Council got 10 percent of the allocated money in April, but nothing was done in terms of acquittals. If you are failing to utilise just 10 percent as Bulawayo yet we are the second largest city, then we have a serious problem. As Minister of State for Bulawayo, I am not happy with this development.”
We are disappointed by this as well, a council which, for decades, has lacked money to fix 70 percent of its road network, gets given $217 million in free money for it to do the work but dismally fails to so. Only spending $21 million.
We wonder how BCC can be helped. We really don’t know. What do they want? They want central Government to bring over its equipment and its technical staff, in addition to the cash and fuel it has already provided to then fix the council roads on its own? Is council playing funny political games?
Residents deserve far much better than this. We demand that council stops blaming everything, and everyone and start working on the roads, our roads as residents, so that we can drive safely and faster, with our vehicles maintaining their shape for longer.