THE demolition of the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital will soon start after the nine contractors who had charged the Ministry of Public Works M29 million for the job accepted to lower their price to match the M16 million the ministry was awarded in budget.
The announcement was made by Ministry of Public Work Principal Secretary Mothabathe Hlalele on Wednesday after protracted delays that recently saw the Ministry of Health threatening to do the work on its own.
Mr Hlalele said the nine contractors had agreed to continue working after the tender was reviewed downwards to M16 million. He however, said the contractors would now collaborate with the ministry’s procurement department to quantify the work that they would do under the new arrangement.
He said some of the work would be done by the contractor responsible for the construction of the hospital.
Mr Hlalele said the demolition job was complex but was also compounded by the fact that the site is in the central business district. He said among the nine contractors, some are responsible for the electricity connections, some water and others for telecommunications.
Early last week, Health minister Nkaku Kabi said the ministry had taken the matter into its own hands as they were running out of time to complete the demolition job.
Minister Nkaku Kabi had told the media that although it was the job of the Ministry of Public Works to demolish the hospital, his ministry would have to go it alone to ensure that they did not miss out on funding from China for the construction of a new hospital due to delays in demolishing the old Queen II Hospital.
The Chinese government last year pledged an additional M400 million to bring its total funding commitment for the construction of the Maseru Hospital and Eye Clinic to M800 million.
The construction of the new health facility, which is expected to benefit at least 400 000 people in Maseru and other districts, was meant to begin last year.
China initially pledged M400 million when the two governments signed a funding agreement in December 2017, but the Asian economic giant has since resolved to double the funding commitment as part of its improved development assistance package to Lesotho.
After missing last year’s timeline for the commencement of works, the government has been under increased pressure to demolish the century-old buildings.
Mr Kabi told the media this week that the works have been delayed after the initial budget of M29 million was cut to M16 million. He said they have since written to the Ministry of Public Works requesting that they be allowed to do the work on their own.
“We asked them (Ministry of Public Works) to speak to the company which won the tender regarding the reduced budget failure of which they should allow us to take matters into our own hands by finding contractors who will do the work for the same budget,” Mr Kabi said.
“We gave the Ministry of Public Works an opportunity to speak to the contractors as we have previously worked harmoniously. Their response to our plea was that the contractors said they had been given limited time to decide whether they could work with the reduced budget or not.
“On the other hand, the Chinese people are pressuring us to finalise our issues so that they can start, and we have given them excuses for a long time now.”
Mr Kabi said they have since engaged the Ministry of Finance to give the MoH the funds for the demolition of the hospital. He said his ministry can do the work on its own after the amendment of the procurement regulations.