THE proposal by Kasama Central Member of Parliament Kelvin Sampa for the community to be given materials to undertake projects as opposed to giving jobs to local contractors under the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) is one that holds great potential for rural development.Reports from Kasama have again highlighted a common problem of low quality works undertaken by contractors.
In his 2021 Budget presentation to Parliament Minister of Finance Bwalya Ng’andu advised that the real Gross Domestic Product growth is projected at negative 4.2 percent in 2020, the first recession since 1998. Almost all the sectors are expected to record negative growth.
He disclosed that disruptions in supply chains and containment measures have had a severe impact on sectors such as tourism, construction, wholesale and retail trade as well as manufacturing.In addition to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, electricity rationing has contributed to the contraction of overall economic activity.The Finance Minister stated that Government is promoting the procurement of locally produced goods to promote industrialisation. Adding that it would enhance the market opportunities for the local industry.To increase science literacy and promote the next generation of innovators and critical thinkers, Government has established Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) schools of excellence in all the 10 provinces. Further, to improve quality and increase the number of teachers, STEM programmes have been introduced at Mukuba, Chalimbana and Kwame Nkrumah Universities.All these efforts can be enhanced with the direct involvement and participation of local communities.Time and time again, inspections by government officials to various project sites have raised alarm due to shoddy works or in some cases absentee contractors.We are fully cognisant of the fact that some delays in projects are caused by limited funding but that should not be an excuse for poor quality works by those firms entrusted with Government contracts.Mr Sampa lamented that some local contractors in Kasama had delivered poor quality of works on projects funded through the CDF, hence his decision to offer jobs to members of the community.He was speaking recently when he inspected some primary schools that were funded under the CDF.He inspected Musenga, Lukashi, Chitwe, Itamina and Milenge among other schools.The MP said he would soon sit down with councillors and the CDF committee members at Kasama Municipal Council to ensure that it abolishes the awarding of the CDF funded contracts to local contractors in his constituency.Mr Sampa’s suggestion comes in the wake of some 2018 CDF funded-schools construction, which were of shoddy quality.He suggested that the local authority should be providing the building materials while members of the community would do the work on their own without engaging contractors.Zambia’s rural areas tend to be sparsely populated with contractors forced to travel long distances to complete works, but if the local community is tasked to undertake the project – the aspect of long distances is out of the picture.Mr Sampa, who is also PF National Youth Chairman, said the move would enable communities especially youths get empowered through CDF, as they would be given incentives, once they do the work.This approach would see massive savings to the CDF as the community in collaboration with the council would strive to use as much local materials as possible.
It will also lead to an exchange of technical skills that can then be applied across the community.