CON­TRAC­TOR ABAN­DONS PALACE PROJECT

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Pas­cali­nah Kabi

THE much-de­layed con­struc­tion of a new royal palace in Maseru has been plunged into a fresh cri­sis af­ter the ar­chi­tects over­see­ing the project re­solved to aban­don it.

The ar­chi­tects, Makeka De­sign Lab, cited a “break­down of their re­la­tions with the Public Works min­istry” as the rea­son for aban­don­ing the project.

The ar­chi­tects al­leged, among other things, that they had not been paid by the min­istry for the work they had done.

The lat­est de­vel­op­ment is likely to cost the tax­payer heav­ily as the project has al­ready spi­ralled out of cost from an orig­i­nal bud­get of M170 mil­lion to M450 mil­lion

The ar­chi­tects’ with­drawal will in­evitably cause more de­lays and fur­ther cost es­ca­la­tions to the project.

The prin­ci­pal sec­re­tary in the Min­istry of Public Works, Motha­bathe Hlalele, con­firmed to the Le­sotho Times that Makeka De­sign Lab had with­drawn from the project. Mr Hlalele how­ever, said he would en­gage the ar­chi­tects to­mor­row in a meet­ing to get them to re­verse their de­ci­sion.

Makeka De­sign Lab founder, Mo­kena Makeka, last night con­firmed his firm’s with­drawal from the project, say­ing sev­eral fac­tors had con­trib­uted to the break­down of trust be­tween the two par­ties in­clud­ing the gov­ern­ment’s fail­ure to pay them M5 mil­lion in ar­rears for some of the work they had done so far.

Mr Makeka said they felt com­pelled to with­draw from the project to pro­tect their rep­u­ta­tion as they were fre­quently made the scapegoat when­ever there were prob­lems that be­set the project.

Makeka De­sign Lab is the sec­ond ar­chi­tec­tural com­pany to with­draw from the project af­ter another South African com­pany, Palace Ar­chi­tects.

Palace Ar­chi­tects be­gan de­sign­ing His Majesty King Let­sie III’S palace in 2010 but left the project af­ter a con­trac­tual dis­pute with the Min­istry of Public Works.

Prior to their de­par­ture, part of the build­ing they de­signed had been de­mol­ished fol­low­ing con­cerns over its fail­ure to meet the stip­u­lated stan­dards.

The Public Works min­istry sub­se­quently en­gaged Makeka De­sign Lab to re­design the build­ing while the Le­sotho Steel Prod­ucts com­pany un­der­took the con­struc­tion.

Makeka De­sign Lab ini­tially com­mu­ni­cated its with­drawal from the project in a state­ment to the Le­sotho Times in which they cited sev­eral fac­tors that in­clude “fi­nanc­ing and ques­tion­able de­ci­sion-mak­ing by var­i­ous stake­hold­ers, which have led to a de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of re­la­tions be­tween our­selves and our client (the Min­istry of Public Works)”.

“As of the 12th of July 2018, Makeka De­sign Lab has ter­mi­nated the con­tract with the Min­istry of Public Works, specif­i­cally the Build­ing De­vel­op­ment Ser­vices (BDS), af­ter iden­ti­fy­ing sev­eral is­sues that af­fect our abil­ity to de­liver the high­est stan­dard of pro­fes­sion­al­ism and qual­ity for our work on the Royal Palace of Le­sotho.

“The host of is­sues we have en­coun­tered through­out our as­so­ci­a­tion with the project are too nu­mer­ous to name here, but in­clude fi­nanc­ing and ques­tion­able de­ci­sion-mak­ing by var­i­ous stake­hold­ers, which have led to a de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of re­la­tions be­tween our­selves and our client.

“It is there­fore judicious and pro­fi­cient at this stage that we with­draw our ser­vices for the client to pur­sue their vi­sion to their ful­fil­ment,” part of the state­ment reads.

Makeka De­sign Lab said the de­ci­sion to end the con­tract had not been taken lightly but was done to en­sure that the “com­pany would not be party to any fur­ther dam­age or risk for ac­tiv­i­ties done by oth­ers”.

“The Royal Palace has been at the heart of Makeka De­sign Lab for more than six years. It has been and will al­ways be our most pres­ti­gious com­mis­sion as a prac­tice.

“We were ini­tially com­mis­sioned to do in­te­rior de­sign, then as ar­chi­tects and ul­ti­mately as the prin­ci­pal agent of the project.

“We be­lieve that we have played a sig­nif­i­cant role in the re­design of the palace. As an in­ter­na­tional award­win­ning de­sign firm, we have given our best ser­vice, im­ple­ment­ing skills ac­quired over more than 20 years, de­spite the dire con­di­tions that we found the project in,” the firm stated.

On his part, the prin­ci­pal sec­re­tary in the Min­istry of Public Works, Motha­bathe Hlalele, said they would meet with Makeka De­sign Lab to­mor­row “to try and per­suade them to change their minds be­cause we don’t want them to ter­mi­nate”.

Mr Hlalele said the much-de­layed project was at the crit­i­cal stage and that it was im­por­tant for Makeka De­sign Lab to see it through.

He said the ar­chi­tects’ with­drawal would de­rail the min­istry’s plans to have com­pleted the project by end of Oc­to­ber this year.

“We have made an un­der­tak­ing that the Royal Palace will be com­pleted by end of Oc­to­ber this year and we in­tend to keep that prom­ise. This is why we are hav­ing a meet­ing to­mor­row that we ex­pect the Makeka De­sign Lab to at­tend be­cause we don’t want them to ter­mi­nate the con­tract.

“We are go­ing to per­suade them and we are hope­ful ev­ery­thing will be ironed out to­mor­row and they will be back on board to see this project to its fi­nal­ity,” Mr Hlalele said.

How­ever, Mr Makeka said he did not think it fea­si­ble for the two par­ties to work to­gether again given the break­down in their re­la­tion­ship.

“How are we go­ing to work to­gether when the gov­ern­ment has not paid us the M5 mil­lion that it owes?

“The client (min­istry of public works and trans­port) would also walk out of meet­ings if I was not there although I would have sent qual­i­fied and com­pe­tent peo­ple to the meet­ings. I am run­ning a com­pany which will con­tinue to operate and be ex­pected to ful­fil its con­trac­tual obli­ga­tions even if I am not around.

“There was also the lack of trust be­tween the two par­ties which has led to an on­go­ing pat­tern of us be­ing told of­fi­cially and un­of­fi­cially that we were the ob­sta­cle and all prob­lems were be­stowed upon us.

“I do not want to be an ob­sta­cle and peo­ple should not feel com­pro­mised be­cause of me. Maybe they were right to say that we were not do­ing good job,” Mr Makeka said.

THE Royal Palace build­ing.

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