This ‘habit’ fills stacks of pages – along with problems with public procurement – in annual reports of the Controller and Auditor General (CAG) and in routine parliamentary questions. Often the government has to come up with new funds to re-do projects. Of course, it just can’t cancel the projects, as that would amount to punishing innocent people.
Water minister Prof Makame Mbarawa shoulders the unenviable task of ‘resurrecting’ up to 88 major water projects stalled in various parts of the country from as long ago as 2010. He has been blaming poor management and unscrupulous engineers for the situation, and it is clear that this has nearly always been the situation.
The minister is saying that the projects will be revived, but can the situation be controlled and such losses curtailed?
Prof Mbarawa has unveiled a plan to revive projects undertaken between 2010 and 2013 but without producing a drop of water despite having consuming billions of shillings in taxpayers’ money.
But he says that the problem had to do with past managements and engineers that spent vast sums of government funds without achieving intended results, which makes one find reason to wonder how assuring this is: Didn’t this faulty behaviour come up because the firms involved would not actually suffer any losses?
Inaugurating a 331 million/- water project supported by Germany and meant to be implemented from July 2018 to May 2019 and benefit more than 11,800 people, the minister warned that the government would no longer entertain such shoddy work.
This is a showcase project implemented on schedule, while several others apparently did not see the light of day. So, rather than declare that shoddy work would not be entertained, would it be much better ensuring that the mess would actually be forestalled?
Judging by the mood among a whole series of power brokers, much as they would shed the proverbial crocodile tears at such dereliction of public trust in handling billions of shillings for vital water or other projects, one sobering feature comes up.
And it is that many people who used to enjoy the “fruits” of negligence and short-changing the public as in these 90-odd water projects are biting their lower lips and waiting. They want the government to relax its vigilance on theft and misuse of public funds, or the younger ones wait for softer climes later.
Prof Mbarawa said the project was first designed and implemented in 2013 but did not produce water, intoning that it was shameful that the government had taken six years to bring water to people simply owing to problems with engineers and managers working on the project.
One point the minister didn’t touch was that the current project implement system makes it ‘smart’ for people not to implement projects, as it will not hurt them. Will he minister change this?
Engineers and managers are going to have utmost incentive to finish projects in due and proper form if they show drawings and bids and the lowest or similar bidder is selected, obtains bank credit for materials and puts up the project.
Yes, the winner would be paid with interest, but the government would not lose money. Engineers and managers wouldn’t cheat but speed up implementation. Let’s consider all this.
Land professionals shouldn’t agitate for restriction of rent
LAND sector professionals have been having intense discussions on the situation in the real estate and property fields, appealing for serious intervention in the land sector so that a more streamlined policy environment is created.
The focus of that appeal was a mixed bag, presented as a quest for modernisation of the sector but containing elements of policies taken up in past decades, like the Rent Restriction Act of 1964, which was dropped when the sector was being rationalised three decades later.
The land sector professionals argue that policy needs to protect landlords as well as tenants, explaining the two aspects of the policy as formalisation of property on the one hand – which thus protects landlords – and regulation of rental charges.
The latter is meant to protect tenants against what in the past was known as exploitation – meaning unmerited profits, which though isn’t the same as fraud but ‘unequal contracts’ between landlords and tenants.
In sum, this kind of legislation prevents landlords from setting the rents they deem fit to take care of clearing bank loans and getting the right clients.
Rest restriction was passed in the early 1960s era of continuing Africanisation, where the government was making efforts to get public servants into the city centre and enable them to live in the immediate surroundings of the central business districts of major towns.
The result was that the city started to develop on its edges, with people obtaining plots to build low-cost houses in an informal sector manner – with the city centre becoming a depressed area.
With trends of accumulation rising from the mid-1980s and the subsequent decade, liberalisation helped to modernise the cities, facilitated by eliminating rent restrictions.
Appeals to restrict rent charges within a defined regulatory context have since then shifted from a strategic parameter at a political level to the articulation of ideology and pursuit of privileges of staying at a good place at low rents.
The stumbling block is that there are unavoidable negative results from that kind of policy, whose net impact is worse than the problem the change in policy sought to redress.
Restricting rents makes anyone become eligible for, or capable of, staying in any part of town – that is, a person renting a room at, say, Magomeni in Dar es Salaam would pay the same rent if he or she obtained a room in the posh Oysterbay suburb, which would open a can of worms.
With that sort of ease of movement, two agencies would control who lives in what room and thus in what area – political or administrative authority on the one hand and bribes on the other hand. At that time there would be ‘residential space allocation committees’, because rentable space would likely also diminish rapidly as landlords can’t invest in housing if they don’t have a final say on rents.
Ideas like limiting rent payments to monthly instalments work for the National Housing Corporation, where whole offices are occupied by people following up rents. However, an individual with lots of other work to do just wouldn’t knock everyday following up rent of the past month.
Land sector professionals ought to move with the times and give ideas on how to ease the conditions of doing business, where rent restriction is poisonous to realistic housing sector modernisation.