SWINDLED CONTRACTORS CRY FOUL
… local contractors have exhausted all possible avenues to seek readress
ANXIETY has gripped local contractors who were recently allegedly duped by an Indian firm as their plight seems to have reached a dead end.
The Indian firm, Jaguar Overseas, allegedly failed to pay a local contractor, Horizon Contractors Limited, of more than US$1 million which the latter was supposed to pay other local firms it sub- contracted to construct 208 health posts in Central, Eastern and Copperbelt provinces in 2014 using their own money.
Several firms, which were sub- contracted by Horizon Contractors Limited are now threatening to sue following the failure to honour contractual obligations, two years after works were certified complete.
A senior director for the main contractor, Horizon, Stephen Sikaponda said in an interview yesterday that his company had exhausted all possible avenues to have their matter resolved but nothing tangible was coming out.
Mr Sikaponda said that the matter was before the courts but that it was allegedly not being given the necessary attention to be heard.
He said efforts to seek audience with the government through the Ministry of Health had also hit a snag as authorities had allegedly failed to give them audience.
Mr Sikaponda disclosed that the court delays were even reported to the Judicial Complaints Commission but that no action was taken.
He said they were now in a state of helplessness as they did not know where else to run to.
“This foreign firm has been awarded more contracts despite government being fully aware that it has not paid us for the previous work.
We are now losing hope because we don’t know anywhere else to run to,” Mr Sikaponda said.
He appealed to President Lungu to intervene, saying that local contractors had been pleading with the Ministry of Health to intervene but that the ministry had maintained that it was not its baby.
The Indian firm, which had no licence, had partnered with Horizon Contractors Limited to enable it to build health posts after being contracted to do so.
Horizon Contractors also sub- contracted more than 100 local firms, with an agreement for the firms to use their own money to carry out the works, then receive a contractual payment upon completion of the works.
The over US$19 million project for the construction of the health posts and installation of essential equipment was signed between the Zambian government and Jaguar Overseas on 3rd July, 2013.
According to a complaint letter addressed to the Minister of External Affairs in India, Sushma Swaraj, the sub- contractors were supposed to be paid their dues for the executed works, two weeks after certification of completion by government inspectors.
Most local sub-contractors are however still being owed, with some not paid at all, despite the completed works being certified complete in 2016.
In the letter, Horizon Contractors Limited stated that Jaguar Overseas was reluctant to release money despite being paid by government through Exim Bank of India.
The letter states Jaguar Overseas had only paid the company 59 percent of the works executed despite receiving about 87% of the contract value from the Zambian government.
This foreign firm has been awarded more contracts despite the government being fully aware that it has not paid us for the previous work.