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AUGUR Investments could have inflated prices for the incomplete Airport Road project, with the Department of Roads Management — which took over the contract — spending just US$100 000 on relocation of services compared to the US$3 million charged by the original contractor.

In its pricing schedule, Augur said the relocation of services like Zesa cables and council service lines would cost US$3 million.

However, Roads Management says it can do that for US$100 000.

Observers have questioned how the 20km road could have cost US$80 million when much less was spent on far bigger projects like construction of the 77km Ngezi Road in Chegutu by Zimplats.

The Ngezi Road, which cost US$19 million is structurally one of the best roads in Africa and carries massive road trains transporting ore.

Department of Roads Management deputy director operations Mr Moses Ruwende yesterday said they were in the process of a handover-takeover with Augur on the Airport Road project.

“We have not done costing for the whole project, but so far we estimate that US$100 000 would be sufficient for the relocation of services and mobilisation of equipment,” he said.

“The Zimbabwe National Roads Administration will pay for the project in phases.”

Mr Ruwende said the department would stick with the plan designed by Augur.

Augur Investments recently wrote to The Herald threatening to sue for US$10 million after the newspaper questioned the costing of the deal.

The Harare City Council has since cancelled the controversial contract with Augur and handed it over to Zinara.

The Herald has quoted experts questioning how Augur reached the US$80 million price tag for a road that is about 20km long.

Augur, through its lawyers, has responded saying: “Pursuant to the above, our instructions are to demand, as we hereby do, an immediate retraction of all imputations that have been ascribed to the standing of Augur Investments.

“The retraction must contain a clear statement that our client was not involved in any corruption regarding the contracting to the project. The retraction must also contain a statement that the costing of the project was fair and reasonable under the circumstances.

“The said retraction must also point out that the delay in the completion of the project was not necessitated by client’s lack of capacity to perform.”

The Airport Road deal was signed in 2008 and the project should have been completed in 2010, but Augur has only completed a small stretch of the road that it says cost US$20 million.

The city paid Augur with 733,9 hectares of land to cover the US$20 million.

The project, which has been under the spotlight for years, entails the design and construction of a direct link from Enterprise Road at its junction with Robert Mugabe and Mutare roads in Eastlea on the eastern fringes of the Central Business District, over the National Railways of Zimbabwe marshalling yard, crossing the Mukuvisi River to join the existing Airport Road at Alamein Road in Braeside and Arcadia, adjacent to Morgan Zintec College.

Six years have lapsed since Harare City Council signed the agreement with Augur to transform Airport Road into a state-of-the-art highway with flyovers and bridges.

According to Augur, other costs include US$28,1 million for a dual carriageway and slip roads, US$35,7 million for five flyover bridges, and US$4,8 million in professional fees.

Source : The Herald