Contractor risks charges in highway probe

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The contractor of the Beitbridge-Chirundu highway, Geiger International, risks facing contempt of Parliament charges after failing to appear before a parliamentary portfolio committee on the status of the project.

The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Infrastructure chairman, Dexter Nduna told journalists yesterday that they had since asked the Clerk of Parliament to interrogate why they did not show up.

“We are of the opinion that Geiger is supposed to have written to Parliament to give reason why they have not appeared. If they do not put it in writing, we will be left with no option but invoke the law and charge them for contempt of Parliament,” he said.
“The Beitbridge-Chirundu Highway is a very key conduit for economic development, so we have given them two weeks in order for them to appear.”

Nduna said they heard that Geiger International would write to explain why they did not appear at the committee’s summons, as the company’s country representative would be back on December 10.

“To that end, if Parliament is sitting on the 11th (of December), we have made a resolution that we give them a second bite of the cherry before we charge them with contempt. They are set to appear before the committee on the 11th of December if Parliament is sitting,” Nduna said.

“If it does sit and Geiger International does not appear certainly it will be a done deal, a delayed match, whose results are already known. We will charge them with contempt if they do not appear, so that we can get some traction on the Beitbridge-Chirundu Highway.”

The committee summoned Geiger International on the back of stalled progress over the implementation of the project that began in July and the committee has requested to look at Geiger’s agreement which they signed with the Ministry of Transport.

In the same vein, Nduna said they have also asked for the agreement between the South African based infrastructure company Group 5 and the Ministry of Transport in the Plumtree-Bulawayo-Harare-Mutare highway project.

“We believe there is a clause that speaks to and about the equipment that was used on that highway project, so it is the view of the committee that something has gone dangerously wrong. The train has gone off the rails as it relates to the distribution, sale and onward transmission of the equipment that was utilised in that project. So to that end we have also asked they bring in the agreement,” Nduna said.

Geiger International, an Austrian-based company, was contracted by the previous government under former President Robert Mugabe to carry out the implementation of the project under a 25-year build, operate, transfer model at a cost of close to $1 billion.–newsday

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