By Iommie Chiwalo
The recent report by Afrobarometer concerning the worsening levels of corruption in Malawi can only be treated as a guess work at owners risk but exposé by Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI) has cemented it all – massive plunder of public resources is at play.
The foul play has been sniffed after Roads Authority (RA) is suspected to have conveniently paid a blind eye to the fact that the works that the Lilongwe Water Board (LWB) intends to award to China Civil Engineering form part of the six-lane expansion works, under Contract No. RA/DEV/2020-21, which was already signed, and works have commenced on the site, such as the relocation of water pipes, sewer, communication cables and electricity poles, whose Bill of Quantities was pegged at MWK507 million.
In a statement from CDEDI and signed by its Executive Director Sylvester Namiwa, the organisation is worried with continuous daylight plunder of public resources and has since reported the matter to graft bursting body – Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) for action.
“To begin with, the RA in July 2021 awarded a contract worth MWK19 billion for a six-lane Capacity Improvements of Kenyatta Road and Sharrar Street project to China Civil Engineering.
Just a few months later, the LWB obtained a ‘No Objection’ letter from the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA) to award yet another contract, to the same company, to the tune of MWK5.2 billion, purportedly for the relocation of water pipes yet bid evaluation report shows that China Civil Engineering came fourth, with MK5.2 billion, and surprisingly, the company was picked by the LWB to do the job, without any justification for the choice of the company that came fourth among the bidders, or why they rejected the other three lower bidders,” says Namiwa.
The lower bidders were Victory Vision Construction with MWK3.4 billion; Projex Group Ltd with MWK3.6 billion and Malbro International Ltd with MWK4.8 billion.
“It has come to the attention of CDEDI that the LWB, the RA and China Civil Engineering are involved in what we strongly suspect is a plan to defraud unsuspecting taxpayers and voters public funds amounting to MWK5.2 billion,” Namiwa says in the statement.
Namiwa has since confirmed that in the interest of the country, his organisation has written the Minister of Transport and Public Works Jacob Hara to consider stopping the contract awarding process by the LWB, pending further scrutiny of this process.
CDEDI Chief who disclosed that his organisation is in possession of the contract documents awarded to China Civil Engineering by the RA, where the evidence of fraudulent transaction has been sourced from, believes that is a serious case of double dipping,
where Malawians are being robbed of billions in broad-day light.
“This coincidence of giving another contract to the same contractor by the LWB, and seeking a “No Objection’ for the same, was so glaring; hence, the move by CDEDI to invoke the ATI law in order to expose the shameless attempt to plunder the public purse,” says Namiwa.
He says at all cost there is no justification for LWB to seek the services of a sub contractor and paying MWK5, 242, 933, 311.64 which is over ten times the recommended rate, when the same contractor, in the main contract, pegged the same works at MWK507 million.
“With issues that have emerged, and require concerted efforts, there is need for Malawians to save the country from some selfish individuals who are bent on nothing but plundering at will the country’s already depleted resources,” he says.
CDEDI has also written the Minister of Transport and Public Works to consider withdrawing the intention to award contracts to China Geo Engineering, pending investigations and due diligence on how the company was awarded a MWK19 billion contract, when the same company was unable to raise MWK4 billion in less than six months ago, as initial capital, due to what the company described as “lack of capacity”.
For starters, what is very confusing is that RA recently published an intention to award China Geo Engineering, to upgrade the first 42-kilometre of the Thabwa-Chitseko-Seveni (S152 East Bank) Road in Chikwawa, to bitumen standard despite the fact that the very same company was awarded the Mwanza-Neno Road project, which has since stalled despite the contractor escalating prices for over four times.
It is after such serious considerations that CDEDI feels it is high time Malawians started demanding answers from the present government on issues to do with public funds, which are slowly being depleted willy-nilly.
The country’s procurement especially in public infrastructure development are mostly being flouted and is becoming sickening that Malawians are paying huge bills in servicing the projects who are mostly being damaged before launch due to poor quality.
Surprisingly authorities have been defensive when eventualities occur.