Over K600m spent on stalled project

Over K600m spent on stalled project

 A planned weighbridge meant to tame overloading of trucks and generate revenue for road investments is turning into a white elephant.

Ministry of Transport and Public Works has already spent over K600 million on the facility along M5 in Dwangwa, Nkhotakota District

Yet, six years into its initial completion deadline, it is still incomplete, a Nation on Sunday inspection revealed.

The building is unroofed; the space where the bridge was earmarked for installation is mere concrete ground, surrounded by overgrown bushes.

Maize drying on a concrete of the
supposed weighbridge

Staff houses are buried in the thicket of overgrown grass, prone to vandalism.

Union Building Contractors says the houses are almost complete.

Challenges in contractor recruitment and late payment, are among factors that have dragged the project.

Already, government has terminated two contractors and a new one is being recruited.

However, its failure to pay K180 million Union Building Contractors means the new contractor cannot proceed with the works.

Union Building Contractors project manager Blessings Kombe has put his foot down in response to Nation on Sunday’s questionnaire: “We won’t entertain any contractor coming in until our contract is sorted out.”

The standoff between the contractor and the Ministry of Transport and Public Works has been outstanding for over a year.

However, according to Kombe, there are signals of a solution, while refusing to quote the amount they are demanding to vacate the site.

“We have measured all works done, administration costs for guarding the site and any compensation depending on contract conditions.

“The final certificate [for payment] was issued in March this year, so we are awaiting payment.”

The Ministry of Transport re-tendered the contract last year.

While it had not responded to our questionnaire on the progress, Kombe revealed that a contractor has been identified.

Ministry spokesperson Watson Maingo confirmed the K180 million for Union Building Contractors.

He said on Thursday: “The Department of Building processed the certificate for the contractor and it was submitted to the Directorate of Road Traffic and Safety Service for payment. Once payment is done, the contractor is expected to leave the site.”

In an earlier interview, Maingo said Union Building Contractors finalised the construction of 13 staff houses except for water and power supply.

“The station office, generator house and ablution block are at roof level. External works – all sewer reticulation, including septic tanks are complete, the borehole has been drilled and stone pitching has been completed,” he said.

Governance watchdog, Centre for Social Transparency and Accountability executive director Willy Kambwandira described the project management as worrisome as the expenditure is expected to balloon beyond the budgeted K650 million.

“It is a price innocent Malawians pay when proper procurement procedures are not followed by authorities, and also public officials use opaque procurement systems.

“The contractor too appears to have lacked the capacity to do this work and one wonders why he was hired. These are resources that could have been used elsewhere,” he said.

He demanded an investigation into the project implementation so that the officials involved are held accountable.

The ministry is on record to have said the project was supposed to be undertaken by a company with civil works certification.

Government awarded the contract to Union Building Contractors which lacked civil works certification.

The ministry later awarded it to Ananiovu Construction Company, but the contract was terminated, too.

The M5 is among the roads that deteriorate fast due to overloaded trucks.

It lies close to Lake Malawi, a gateway to tourism, fish and sugar transportation as Salima Sugar and Illovo have production sites along it.

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