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International Journal of Project Management 27 (2009) 522531


www.elsevier.com/locate/ijproman

Cost escalation and schedule delays in road construction


projects in Zambia
Chabota Kaliba *, Mundia Muya, Kanyuka Mumba
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, School of Engineering, The University of Zambia, P.O. Box 32379, Lusaka, Zambia
Received 27 November 2007; received in revised form 30 June 2008; accepted 3 July 2008

Abstract
The wealth of any nation is gauged by its performance in infrastructure provision through its construction industry. The construction
industry is large, volatile, and requires tremendous capital outlays. For developing economies, road construction constitutes a major
component of the construction industry. This means that much of the national budget on infrastructure development is channelled to
road construction projects. The aim of the study reported in this paper was to identify causes and eects of cost escalation and schedule
delays in road construction projects. Using a detailed literature review, structured interviews and questionnaire surveys, the results of the
study conrmed the prevalence of cost escalation and schedule delays in road construction projects in Zambia. The study established that
bad or inclement weather due to heavy rains and oods, scope changes, environmental protection and mitigation costs, schedule delay,
strikes, technical challenges, ination and local government pressures were the major causes of cost escalation in Zambias road construction projects. On the other hand, delayed payments, nancial processes and diculties on the part of contractors and clients, contract
modication, economic problems, materials procurement, changes in drawings, stang problems, equipment unavailability, poor supervision, construction mistakes, poor coordination on site, changes in specications and labour disputes and strikes were found to be the
major causes of schedule delays in road construction projects. Appropriate project management practices are thus required to curb the
causes and eects of cost escalation and schedule delays in road construction projects.
2008 Elsevier Ltd and IPMA. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Cost escalation; Schedule delays; Road construction industry; Zambia

1. Introduction
Cost and schedule overruns can occur due to a wide
range of causes on various types of projects. If project costs
or schedules exceed their planned targets, client satisfaction
would be compromised. The funding prole would no
longer match the budget requirement and further slippage
in schedule could result. The resulting eects would be detrimental especially in the case of developing countries
whose wealth measure is greatly dependant on their performance in infrastructure provision through the construction
industry, especially on road construction projects which
constitute a major component of the industry.
*

Corresponding author. Tel.: +260 977619877.


E-mail address: cjicax@yahoo.co.uk (C. Kaliba).

0263-7863/$34.00 2008 Elsevier Ltd and IPMA. All rights reserved.


doi:10.1016/j.ijproman.2008.07.003

According to Ahmed et al. [1], delays on construction


projects are a universal phenomenon and road construction projects are no exception. They are usually accompanied by cost overruns. These have a debilitating eect on
clients, contractors, and consultants in terms of growth in
adversarial relationships, mistrust, litigation, arbitration,
cash-ow problems, and a general feeling of trepidation
towards each other [1]. This problem is not unique to developed countries but is also experienced in most of the developing economies too. The Hindu [26], an e-paper, carried
an article that indicated that construction projects in India
were prone to delays and cost escalation, causing contractors to back out of the some projects.
Major causes and eects of cost escalation and schedule
delays on road construction projects in Zambia are
outlined.

C. Kaliba et al. / International Journal of Project Management 27 (2009) 522531

In the bid to improve the economy, the Government of


Zambia has over the past years spent a lot of resources on
road construction projects. For example, US$ 118.7 million
was spent on road projects in 2005, US$ 227 million in
2006 and US$197 million in 2007 [911]. However, many
road projects were rarely completed within the planned
time and cost as can be seen in Table 1, leading to loss of
revenue due to cost escalation and schedule delays. As a
result of its overriding importance for both the client in
terms of performance and the contractor in terms of
money, time is the source of frequent disputes and claims
leading to lawsuits [1], leading to more expenses and revenue losses by the parties involved.

Accountability Oce [8], found that 77% of highway projects in the USA experienced cost escalation. Flyvbjerg
et al. [7] also concluded that nine out of every ten construction projects experienced cost escalation. Most of the cost
escalation is said to occur before construction begins.
Among the many factors identied, GAO/RCED [8] specically noted three:
 initial estimates were preliminary and not designed to be
reliable predictors of project costs;
 initial estimates were modied to reect more detailed
plans and specications as a project is designed; and
 a projects costs were aected by among other things,
ination and changes in scope to accommodate economic considerations that occurs over time as a project
is designed and built.

2. Cost escalation
Cost escalation refers to the increase in the amount of
money required to construct a road project over and above
the original budgeted amount. In the India Infrastructure
Report, Datta [5] described cost escalation as a ubiquitous
problem in government projects. Cost escalation occurs
when actual costs exceed previously estimated values [16].
Schexnayder et al. [25] and Merewitz [18] endeavoured
to nd some of the reasons that lead to cost escalation
and categorized them into two broad groups: uncontrollable and controllable factors.
In a study to identify factors that cause inaccuracies in
cost estimates of highway projects, the Government

523

Other studies [5,1721,25] identied cost escalation to be


a result of problems such as delay in land acquisition, unexpected problems in supply of raw materials, illegal
encroachment on land even during project implementation,
or due to internal problems in government organisations. It
has further been noted that delays between the planning
stage and actual implementation of especially large infrastructure projects is an ubiquitous problem resulting in cost
escalation and failure to meet the demands as the construction completion horizon is reached even before the completion of the project [5].

Table 1
Performance of selected projects in Zambia

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13

Name of
project

Start date

Original nish
date

Revised
nish date

Original contract sum


(US $ million)

Final contract sum (US


$ million)

Remarks

NyimbaKatete
LusakaMongu
KasamaLuwingu
MpikaKasama
Mpika-Muwele

October
2003
January
2003
October
2001
June 2001

October 2004

July 2005

4.90

5.88

July 2005

On-going

24.25

25.33

Nil

35.00

Nil

2.38

Beyond schedule

Nil

1.30

Failure to commence

KashikishiLunchinda
ChambeshiChinkobo
IsokaMuyombe
ChinsaliNakonde
MpikaChinsali
MutandaKasempa
ChomaNamwala
LuanshyaMpongwe

June 2001

November
2003
December
2002
December
2001
January 2003

Beyond budget,
beyond schedule
Beyond budget,
beyond schedule
Beyond schedule

Nil

37.50

Incomplete work

February
2001
December
2000
April 1999

August 2001

Nil

1.35

Failure to commence

March 2002

August 2002

4.00

5.50

July 2000

2.00

2.00

March
1999
February
1997
November
1994
November
1994

March 2000

November
2000
November
2000
December
2000
Nil

Beyond budget,
beyond schedule
Beyond schedule

1.95

1.95

Beyond schedule

3.84

6.45

2.50

8.60

December
2001

2.53

3.63

Beyond budget,
beyond schedule
Beyond budget,
incomplete work
Beyond budget,
beyond schedule

June 2001

February
1999
February
1998
January 1997

Source: Projects progress report [23] and projects progress report [24].

524

C. Kaliba et al. / International Journal of Project Management 27 (2009) 522531

Factors that lead to cost escalation are said to include


among others: the size of the project; project scope enlargement; ination; length of time to complete the project;
incompleteness of preliminary engineering and quantity
surveys; engineering uncertainties; exogenous delays; complexities of administrative structures; and inexperience of
administrative personnel [18]. Cost escalation is further
compounded by factors such as project location, project
conditions, environmental mitigation costs, suspension of
works, strikes, poor coordination on site, expiry of bid,
local government pressures, political discontinuity and
transportation problems [14,21,25].
Studies by the Rand Corporation to address the question of what steps could be taken to minimise cost and
schedule risks suggest that factors such as remote sites, failure to plan for adequate manpower, poor understanding of
local labour practices, and changing or unclear labour regulations can lead to cost escalation [19,20]. These studies
also indicate that poor management would cause cost escalation but stress that poor project execution caused by
management deciencies is usually not the primary driver
of project cost escalation [19,20]. Manseld et al. [17]
showed that the major factors that cause cost escalation
were poor contract management, improper planning, inaccurate estimating, and overall price uctuations.
3. Schedule delays
Schedule delay refers to a situation where a construction
project does not come to completion within the planned period. Time is an integral part of every plan a company develops for performing contract work. There is a relationship
between the schedule, the scope of work, and project conditions. Changes to any one or more of the above three can
aect the compensation level and time of completion [1].
Construction projects frequently experience schedule
delays. Various factors aect completion periods of projects. It has been argued that it is necessary to create awareness of causes of project schedule delays, their frequency,
and the extent to which they can adversely aect project
delivery [6]. According to Ahmed et al. [1], delays can be
grouped in the following four broad categories depending
on how they operate contractually:





non-excusable delays;
non-compensable excusable delays;
compensable excusable delays; and
concurrent delays.

Manseld et al. [17] showed that the most signicant


factors aecting construction schedules were nancing
and payment for completed works, poor contract management, changes in site conditions, shortage of materials, and
improper planning. Ahmed et al. [1], Al-Moumani [2],
Kumaraswamy and Chan [15] and Assaf et al. [3] agreed
on most of the causes of schedule delays in the construction
industry and concluded that the most signicant causes of

delay included approval of working drawings, delays in


payments to contractors and the resulting cash-ow problems during construction, design changes, conicts in work
schedules of subcontractors, slow decision making and
executive bureaucracy in the clients organisations, design
errors, labour shortage and inadequate labour skills.
Promkuntong and Ogunlana [22] concluded that the
problems of the construction industry in developing economies could be nested in three layers:
 shortages or inadequacies in industry infrastructure,
mainly supply of resources;
 problems caused by clients and consultants; and
 incompetence of contractors.

4. The need to improve management of road construction


projects
In an eort to improve the Zambian economy and in
keeping with the Millennium Development Goal Number
8, Target 14 which focuses at assisting landlocked lowincome developing countries like Zambia to meet their special development needs and to help them overcome the
impediments of geography by improving their transit transport systems, the Government of Zambia in its 2006
national budget allocated an equivalent of US $227 million
towards roads [10]. Fig. 1 shows the country data and location of Zambia in Africa.
In its Fifth National Development Plan (FNDP) running from 2006 to 2010, the Zambian Government further
stressed the need for strengthening economic infrastructure
as one of the critical vehicles for the realization of the
plans objectives. During the FNDP, it was planned that
roads in a maintainable condition should improve from
51% in 2005 to 90% by 2010. Spending on rural feeder
roads, in particular, was to be enhanced so as to widen
market access on a large scale. The FNDP targeted to raise
spending on road infrastructure to at least 2.0% of Gross
Domestic Product (GDP) during the planned period [12].
While it was noble to allocate so much resources to the
road sector, it has been argued that the Government would
continue to put taxpayers money in a bottomless pit if
there was no proper management of road projects [4].
From available information [23,24], there seems to be a
consistent pattern of projects costing more than budgeted
for, taking longer than planned or even being terminated
before commencement or during implementation as demonstrated by a selected list of projects in Table 1. The portrayed situation is a source of concern and needs urgent
measures to address it.
Improved management of roads would only be demonstrated when projects of desired quality would be delivered
within their scheduled period and costs. From the foregoing
discourse, there are a wide range of views on the causes of
schedule delays and cost escalation regarding engineering
and construction projects. Some are attributable to a single

C. Kaliba et al. / International Journal of Project Management 27 (2009) 522531

525

6. Structured interviews

Fig. 1. Country data and location of Zambia in Africa.

party, others can be ascribed to several quarters, and many


relate more to systemic faults or deciencies rather than to a
group or groups of people. Successful execution of construction projects and keeping them within estimated cost
and prescribed schedules depend on a methodology that
requires sound engineering judgment [13]. This calls for
employment of eective project management techniques.
Despite the high number of studies [13,6,14,15,17
22,25] on causes of cost escalation and schedule delays in
construction projects, little or no research has been undertaken in Africa in general and Zambia in particular to
address the identied challenges. Additionally, most of
the reported studies relate to the construction industry in
general, and the building sector in particular, and as such
would not highlight some of the major causes of cost escalation and schedule delays in road construction projects.
The studies also are predominantly from developed countries and would not highlight clearly the factors that would
aect the road construction sector in developing countries.
The fact that there is no literature of similar studies conducted in Zambia suggests that little attention has been
paid to this area of investigation in the past.
5. Research methods
This paper presents ndings of a study carried out from
February 2006 to February 2007 on the major causes and
eects of cost escalation and schedule delays in road construction projects in Zambia. The data was collected using
structured interviews and questionnaires surveys, literature
review and case studies of road construction projects in the
country.

The structured interviews were preliminary in nature


and design and were targeted at respondents from consulting and construction rms, nancing institutions and
implementing agencies. The structure of the interview questions was based on information gathered from literature
review and was intended to identify challenges that nanciers, consultants, implementing agencies and contractors
face in implementing road projects in Zambian. The interviews were also aimed at obtaining all possible factors that
would cause cost escalation and schedule delays in road
construction projects in Zambia so as to have them
included in the main questionnaire survey.
Ten respondents, randomly selected from a cross-section
of organisations in the road sector, were interviewed. Zambia is a relatively small low-income developing country as
earlier seen in Fig. 1. The construction industry is equally
small. There are three major governmental client ministries
in Zambia with a number of implementation wings and
quasi-government agencies, 15 consulting rms, and 40
main contractors in Category R, Grades 1 to 4 registered
with the National Council for Construction in the Zambian
road construction sector. The sample size, though small,
encompassed the key players in the Zambian road sector
and helped in providing preliminary insights into the challenges faced by the road sector in which the government is
almost the sole client. The preliminary issues from the
interviews fed into the information utilised in the construction of the wider questionnaire survey described later in the
paper.
6.1. Information from the interviews
6.1.1. Overview of projects handled by interviewees
Information on the projects the interviewees had been
involved with in the past ve years was captured. Mainly,
questions relating to the number of projects undertaken,
contract values, and the extent to which the projects had
satised the objectives of budget, schedule and performance requirements were posed.
All the interviewees indicated that they had been
involved with not less than ve projects in their work experience. Further, the value of contracts managed by the
interviewees ranged from USD 25,000 to USD
50,000,000. These values indicate that the magnitude of
the resources that the Government and other nancing
agencies inject into the sector is quite signicant. It is,
therefore, imperative that the resources are utilised eciently and eectively through good project management.
6.1.2. Budget overruns
From the experience of the interviewees, budget overruns on projects were a common occurrence; four of the
interviewees indicated that Many projects they had been
involved in had suered budget overruns, three stated that
Quite a few projects had budget overruns, while another

526

C. Kaliba et al. / International Journal of Project Management 27 (2009) 522531

three believed that the number of projects that had experienced budget overruns was Negligible.
With the above responses, it was quite clear that this
subject needed to be explored further. The need for further
exploration was especially highlighted from the facts presented in Table 1. Interviewees indicated that in some
cases, funding was so erratic that claims owing to delayed
payments, interest and standing time by contractors
formed a signicant part of the nal total project cost.
Due to delayed payments, project durations increased
and costs escalated. It was also pointed out that due to
political and other inuences; the scope of works on most
government-funded projects could be increased without
due regard to budgetary, schedule and other constraints.
Budget overruns, if not controlled, have the potential to
adversely aect the completion of projects. Stringent management of the various risks that can adversely impact on
increased project costs is thus paramount.
6.1.3. Schedule overruns
Results showed that a signicant number of projects
were not completed within schedule. Six of the interviewees
indicated that Many projects they were involved in had
schedule overruns, three believed that Quite a few projects
had schedule overruns, while one stated that the number of
projects with schedule overruns was Negligible.
The literature reviewed showed that completing projects
within time is one of the biggest challenges facing the construction industry. If risks are not managed well, schedule
overruns are likely to occur. Many risks, apart from
increasing costs, have the tendency to disrupt works, causing delays and hence prolonging the duration of a project.
From the interviews, it was clear that schedule overrun
risks were signicantly high on road projects in Zambia.
Insights from the interviewees showed that due to funding,
design, and unplanned increases in scopes of works, some
projects suered protracted durations. Some of these schedule overruns were so severe that they could increase the
original project durations two, three or even four fold as
evidenced from the information in Table 1 in which projects such as Luanshya-Mpongwe, Kasama-Luwingu and
Kashikishi-Lunchinda roads severely exceeded original
project durations.
6.1.4. Key factors that contribute to projects failing to meet
desired objectives
It was necessary to identify the most important factors
that contributed to some projects falling short of the
desired objectives of cost, time and quality. From their
own experiences, interviewees were requested to pick out
from a given list, factors they considered most signicant
in contributing to projects failing to meet desired
objectives.
Four of the interviewees believed that Poor or erratic
funding contributed most to poor project outcomes. Some
explained that this was more characteristic with projects
that were fully government-nanced. In fact, most of the

interviewees pointed out that all other project objectives


were seriously compromised because of this single factor.
Three indicated that Contractors incompetence contributed to poor project performance; two stated that Poor
project supervision contributed to many projects failing
to meet desired objectives; and one singled out Sudden
change or increase in the scope of works contributory to
projects failing to meet desired objectives.
These results correlated with most of the factors identied in the literature review. The results showed the seriousness of the impact that these risks could have on project
outcomes. Quite often, these factors, while occurring separately or jointly have caused serious implementation problems on road projects in Zambia.
6.1.5. Prevalence of projects failing to meet objectives
For an overview of the extent or magnitude of the problem of road projects facing implementation diculties,
interviewees were asked to rate the frequency of projects
failing to meet budgetary, schedule and design requirements. Three out of ten interviewees rated the prevalence
as High, four indicated that the prevalence as Medium,
while three rated the frequency as Low.
It was quite evident from the interviews that many projects, especially solely government-funded projects, frequently failed to meet the objectives of cost, time and
quality. It seemed these problems were so widespread that
it was almost an accepted norm for this to occur on government-nanced projects. Some of the reasons advanced
included the sanctioning of road projects for political expedience without proper analysis or evaluation of the adequacy of resources or justication of the projects.
Kasama-Luwingu and Kashikishi-Lunchinda Projects were
good examples cited. The ndings from the interviews were
vital input into the questionnaire survey.
7. Questionnaire survey
The questionnaire survey, which was designed to determine the major causes and eects of cost escalation and
schedule delays in road projects, was targeted at 60 participants using the disproportionate stratied sampling technique. To ensure that the ndings of the survey included
all possible factors that would cause cost escalation and
schedule delays in road construction projects in Zambia,
the sample was disproportionately stratied so as so have
represent the views of contractors, consultants and clients
equally. The response rate for the questionnaire survey
was 43%, 70% of which was shared equally between contractors and consultants while clients had 30%
representation.
7.1. Prole of questionnaire respondents
The academic qualications of the questionnaire survey
respondents were assessed. As shown in Fig. 2, out of 26
participants 27% of the respondents had a diploma in engi-

C. Kaliba et al. / International Journal of Project Management 27 (2009) 522531

Weighted opinion averages of each cause of cost escalation and schedule delays in road construction project were
determined to assess their perceived signicance. The average weighted perceived signicance was then computed
using the formula below:

60

50

Percent of respondents

527

4
P

40

WA
30

F i Ri
1
 14
 100%
P
4
Fi
1

20

10
Dip in Eng

BEng

Msc in Eng

Academic qualification
Fig. 2. Academic qualications of the respondents.

where WA is the average weighted perceived signicance;


Ri is the response type on the Likert scale, i ranging from
1 to 4 on the Likert scale; Fi is the frequency or total number of respondents choosing response type i on the Likert
scale, with i ranging from 1 to 4 as earlier described.
As an example, WA, the average weighted perceived signicance was computed as follows:


1
F 1  R1 F 2  R2 F 3  R3 F 4  R4
WA 
4
F 1 F 2 F 3 F 4
 100%

Percent of respondents

30

It is note worthy that the possible values of average


weighted perceived signicance, WA, ranged from 25% to
100% because each factor identied through literature or
interviews had some level of signicance that would not
amount to zero. The factors whose WA score was 50%
and above were categorized as major factors that cause cost
escalation and schedule delays in road construction projects in Zambia.

20

10

0
5 years or less

11 to 15 years
6 to 10 years

16 years or more

9. Major causes of cost escalation in road construction


projects

Working experience in road construction industry


Fig. 3. Working experience in road construction industry.

neering, 50% had a bachelors degree in civil engineering


while 23% had a masters of science in engineering.
Fig. 3 shows that 31% of the respondents had worked in
the construction industry for more than sixteen years, 23%
for eleven to sixteen years, 27% for six to ten years while
the rest had worked for ve years or less.
The prole and experience of the respondents suggest
sucient exposure to make the information acquired
reliable.
8. Analysis and discussion of questionnaire survey results
A questionnaire survey was used to further investigate
the ndings of the interviews and test the extent to which
the results could be generalised. Participants of the questionnaire survey were asked to rate the causes of cost escalation and schedule overruns with respect to their
signicance on a Likert scale ranging from 1 to 4, where
1 = not signicant, 2 = slightly signicant, 3 = signicant
and 4 = very signicant.

Results of questionnaire surveys showed that there were


eight major causes of cost escalations that predominantly
aect road construction projects in Zambia. From Fig. 4,
bad weather, mainly heavy rainfall and oods, scored the
highest weighted average of 73%. It was followed by scope
changes which scored 63% and environmental protection
and mitigation cost which scored 61%. Schedule delay
scored 54% while strikes had 52%. The others were local
government pressures, technical challenges and ination
which all scored 50%.
10. Responsibility and category of major causes of cost
escalation
The major causes of cost escalation were categorized as
shown in Table 2, which indicates that clients were responsible for most of the major causes of cost escalation. Four
of the major causes of cost escalation were solely attributed
to clients. Contractors bore responsibility for two whilst
sharing one with consultants. Bad or inclement weather
had shared responsibility by the parties involved.
It was also noted that most of the causes of cost escalation were controllable. Only inclement weather and ina-

C. Kaliba et al. / International Journal of Project Management 27 (2009) 522531

Weighted Average

528

80%
70%
60%
50%
40%
30%
20%
10%
0%
Bad
weather

Scope
changes

Env
protection
&
mitigation
costs

Schedule
delay

Strikes

Technical
challenges

Inflation

Local govt
pressures

Causes of cost escalation


Fig. 4. Major causes of cost escalation in road projects and their ranking in Zambia.

Table 2
Responsibility and category of the major cause of cost escalation
Causes of cost escalation
Bad weather
Ination
Schedule delay
Scope changes
Local government pressures
Strikes
Technical challenges
Environmental protection and
mitigation costs

Responsibility (who
bares the cost?)

Category of
factor

Shared
Client
Contractor
Client
Client
Contractor
Contractor and
consultant
Client

Uncontrollable
Uncontrollable
Controllable
Controllable
Controllable
Controllable
Controllable
Controllable

tion were uncontrollable and as such the problem of cost


escalation could be minimised.
11. Eects of cost escalation
The study established that project delay, poor quality,
project extension, project abandonment, litigation and cost
overruns were the eects of cost escalation. These eects
could adversely aect the national economy if left
unchecked.
12. Major causes of schedule delays
Delayed payment was found to be the number one cause
of schedule delays in the Zambian road construction industry with 75% as its weighted average percentage of occurrence. It was followed by protracted nancial processes in
client organisations and nancial diculties that accompany the delayed release of funds by client organisations
which had 67% and 60% respectively. Contract modication was ranked forth at 57% while economic hardships
were ranked as the fth major cause of schedule delays
56% weighted average score. Material procurement and
changes in drawings both scored 55%. Stang problems,
equipment unavailability, poor supervision, construction
mistakes, poor coordination on site and changes in specications all scored 53% while labour disputes were least
among the major causes of schedule delays with 50%

weighted average percentage of occurrence as shown in


Fig. 5.
13. Responsibility and category of the major causes of
schedule delays
Table 3 indicates that clients were responsible for six of
the major causes of schedule delay. The other six were
attributed to contractors while two to consultants. As
can be seen from Table 3, 50% of the major causes of schedule delay were compensable events thus the need to keep
the occurrence of such factors to a minimum so that projects could be executed within budget.
14. Eects of schedule delays
The major eects of schedule delays in road construction
projects were identied to be poor quality of end product,
project extension, litigation, and cost overruns.
15. Conclusions
In an eort to improve the Zambian economy and in
keeping with the Millennium Development Goal Number
8, Target 14 which focuses on assisting landlocked developing countries like Zambia to meet their special development
needs and to help them overcome the impediments of geography by improving their transit transport systems, a lot of
investments has been channelled into road construction
projects. Despite substantial investment in road projects,
improvements in the performance of the sector are signicantly impeded by cost escalation and schedule delays
experienced on many projects.
The study found bad or inclement weather due to heavy
rains and the resulting oods to be the number one cause for
cost escalation. It was followed by scope changes, environmental protection and mitigation costs. Schedule delays,
strikes, local government pressures, technical challenges
and ination were also found to be major contributors to
cost escalation. On the other hand, delayed payments were
found to be the number one cause of schedule delays in the
Zambian road construction industry. It was followed by the

C. Kaliba et al. / International Journal of Project Management 27 (2009) 522531

529

Fig. 5. Major causes of schedule delay in road projects and their ranking in Zambia.

Table 3
Responsibility and category of the major causes of schedule delays
Causes of delay

Responsibility (who leads to


the cause?)

Type of delay

Changes in
drawings
Changes in
specications
Material
procurement
Construction
mistakes
Poor supervision
Equipment
unavailability
Financial process

Client

Contractor

Excusable
compensable
Excusable
compensable
Non-excusable

Contractor

Non-excusable

Consultant
Contractor

Non-excusable
Non-excusable

Client

Financial diculties

Client

Delayed payments

Client

Economic problems

Client

Labour disputes and


strikes
Contract
modication
Stang problems
Poor coordination
on site

Contractor

Excusable
compensable
Excusable
compensable
Excusable
compensable
Excusable
compensable
Non-excusable

Consultant

Client
Contractor
Contractor

Excusable
compensable
Non-excusable
Non-excusable

nancial processes in client organisations and nancial difculties that accompany the delayed release of funds by client organisations, contract modications, and economic
hardships. Materials procurement, changes in drawings,
Stang problems, equipment unavailability, poor supervision, construction mistakes, poor coordination on site,
changes in specications and labour disputes were among
the major causes of schedule delays.
These factors combine to impede the rate of delivery of
road infrastructure and consequently the rate of national

development. Delays and any cost overruns tend to unbalance the initial cost benet analyses conducted, considering
much of the money used to construct the roads is borrowed
and has to be paid back with interest. All the factors identied in this study need to be carefully managed so as to
avoid risks that are attributable to them. This calls for
improved risk and project management practices by clients,
contractors and consultants.
Lastly, the small sample size of 26 respondents to the
questionnaire survey poses some limitations to the extent
to which the results of the study could be generalised.
Due to this limitation, the survey may not have identied
all the possible factors that could cause cost escalation
and schedule delays and their eects in road construction
projects in Zambia. However, this notwithstanding, the
study made a signicant attempt at identifying the major
causes of cost escalation and schedule delays in road construction projects in Zambia.
16. Recommendations
There are no straightforward solutions to the challenges
of cost escalation and schedule delays in road construction
projects. There are, however, steps that can be taken to
minimise their causes and eects, the major one being the
use of ecient project management tools and practices.
For the specic factors that cause cost escalation and schedule delays in road construction projects in Zambia, the
following recommendations are suggested.
16.1. Project timing and scheduling
The projects earmarked for construction should be
properly planned and timed in such a way that most of
the works can be executed in seasons of clement weather.
Except for long contracts which take more than one year,
the projects should be executed between early April and
early December, which is the dry season in Zambia. This

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C. Kaliba et al. / International Journal of Project Management 27 (2009) 522531

means that procurement processes need to be embarked on


at appropriate times. Proper scheduling would also ensure
that projects do not experience signicant resource
bottlenecks.
16.2. Scope denition
For any project, scope needs to be well dened from
inception to completion. Scope changes often lead to
claims and at time disruption of work due to inadequate
analysis of the project in its initial stages. Reasonable surveys that would bring to light the scope of works to be
undertaken must always be conducted. The period between
these surveys and award of contract should not be too long
as conditions would not remain the same for a long period
of time. It should be borne in mind that contractors tend to
over price variations so as to cover up for any short falls in
their initial bids. This implies that the variations that result
from scope enlargements are more costly hence compound
cost escalation. Eective scope denition is therefore indispensable for satisfactory project delivery.
16.3. Project costing and nancing
Proper costing is essential in every capital project. The
initial cost estimates should be as accurate as possible.
This would allow clients to ensure that the required funds
for executing the project are sourced in good time and
made available when required. Cost and value engineering
principles must be applied at all stages of the project.
During the execution stage of the project, project managers should ensure that contractual obligations are dealt
with diligently within the required period. Delayed payments due to complex nancial processes in client organisations would cause nancial diculties to contractors,
and consequently cause schedule delays. Interest could
also be charged on delayed payments, hence inducing cost
escalation. Therefore, clients should ensure that they have
funds available for projects before they are commissioned.
The engagement of the nancially ecient private sector
through public private partnerships in road infrastructure
would be another alternative for funding road projects.
On the other hand, contractors should avoid misapplying
project nances as this could put them in nancial distress
that could result in them failing to execute the works.
Advance payments should be applied on intended purposes in order that project objectives of cost, time and
quality are achieved.
16.4. Communication
Eective communication can alleviate most of the factors that cause cost escalation and schedule delays in road
construction projects. Clients ought to promote teambuilding communication processes. Project managers need
to deal with all project issues objectively and ensure that all
communication is project issue based.

16.5. Competent personnel


Eective project implementation requires competent
personnel. This would minimise errors, poor supervision
and enhance coordination on sites. Clients, Consultants
and Contractors should ensure that they have the right personnel with the right qualications to manage their projects. Where possible, construction managers need to
have experience and qualications in project or construction management so that they can eectively utilise the project management tools that are available.
16.6. Capacity building
Capacity building is essential for sustainable development. Governments should set up deliberate schemes that
can help local contractors build their capacity by availing
them credit facilities. This would ensure adequate equipment availability. On the other hand, deliberate policies
for personnel capacity building should also be put in place
by contractors, consultants and client. The benets of such
facilities would upset the prevalent quality shortfalls and
losses of time and money.
16.7. Legislation and good corporate governance
Strike and labour disputes can be controlled through the
use of adequate and appropriate legislation. The government should update, enact and eectively enforce laws that
would ensure that the work force is not ill-treated by their
employers. These laws should also provide for an eective
and proper grievance resolution procedure. This would call
for good corporate governance procedures by the client,
consultant and contractors.
Applied singularly or collectively, the suggested recommendations are essential for improving delivery of road
construction projects in Zambia and other low-income
developing countries. It is necessary that the risks and
weaknesses identied in this paper are addressed if the substantial investments in road construction projects would
contribute to poverty alleviation and an improved quality
of life for the population this vital infrastructure category
is intended to serve.
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