- Minister Molale demands answers from contractors, engineers and inspectors
- Project was handed over eight months ago
- Contractors risk losing P60 million
The Minister of Transport and Public Works, Eric Molale, is reportedly furious over the collapse of Boatle Bridge, less than a year after its completion and is demanding answers from those involved in the construction of the high profile infrastructure project.
The Botswana Gazette is informed that Minister Molale has called an urgent meeting with all stakeholders involved in the project that gobbled up P1.2 billion from government coffers.
Economic Stimulus Programme
The project, which included an intersection at Boatle and a dual carriageway into Gaborone, was awarded to China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) and Consolidated Construction Company (CCC) under the government’s Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP).
Bothakga Burrow Botswana was responsible for project design as the consultant/engineer appointed by the ministry.
Molale and officials of his ministry toured the collapsed bridge yesterday (Tuesday) and a decision to temporarily close the road was taken.
“The minister and the Permanent Secretary Kgomotso Abi will be meeting with the consultant, contractor, and inspectors from the ministry,” said an insider who cannot be named.
“The ministry will be conducting an investigation to determine the cause of the collapse of the bridge.”
The source added that serious action is likely to be taken if investigations show that the collapse of the bridge resulted from structural defects that were avoidable by strict adherence to standards and specifications.
“The project is still under the defect liability period, which means the contractor is liable for any defects in it,” said another source. “The big question is how the consultant and the inspectors overlooked these inherent defects before the project was handed over.”
“But all of that will be answered in a report that should follow. If negligence is proven, then the government will be compelled to take very serious action.”
Deputy Permanent Secretary Isaac Moepeng at the Ministry of Transport and Public Works explained that the collapse was a result of embankment due to the recent heavy rains but an investigation into the probable cause of the collapse will also be immediately launched.
“This project included building two bridges just after Gaborone and the other one in Boatle. What we have observed is that during the rain last night, the bridge experienced an embankment, the bridge protections gave in and collapsed. We have not gotten into the details of what could have led to the collapse but that will be revealed by the investigations.”
He clarified that the project’s defects liability period lapsed in 2020 as it was handed over in 2019 but only officially opened in March 2022. The elapse of the liability period means government will be forced to bear the costs of repairing the bridge.
“We have taken a decision to immediately find a contractor because the project ended in 2019. From 2019-2020 that was the defects liability period, whereby the contractor is on site and awaits any defects that could happen during that period at no cost to the client. The defects liability period is now over and we have since paid the contractor the rest of the balance. Structurally, the bridge is still intact. We have temporarily closed the road as a precautionary measure so we avoid any possible accident. We have engaged with police to help redirect traffic.”
However, The Gazette is also informed that the contractors involved risk losing over P60 million if negligence is established.
“The government is still holding onto the 5% of the P1.2 billion that was agreed when they were awarded the project,” said the source. “The money will only be released once the defects have been addressed.”