Funding constraints leading to erratic cash flow to the contractor coupled with political power play have resulted in the doubling of the 38-kilometre Lumbadzi-Dowa- Chezi road budget from K3 billion to K6 billion
As if that was not enough, government has so far only upgraded 18.3 kilometres of the road with the last seven kilometres from Dzaleka to Dowa district headquarters completed just last week.
The section had remained dormant for close to a year due to contractual breaches by government.
Malawi News understands that the government was yet to honour an outstanding amount of K772, 373, 344 to the contractor, Cilcon Limited, which would attract further interest rates if not paid on time.
According to the contract brief Malawi News has seen, Cilcon Limited was awarded the contract to upgrade the road to Class 1 bitumen standard in late 2014 for an initial amount of K3, 131, 443, 558. 90. Construction works commenced in March 2008 and were supposed to be completed in 36 months.
An inside source at the Roads Authority confided in Malawi News that later the contractor was advised to include the construction of the St Gabriel road in Namitete because funds for that road had been ‘misplaced.’
“It was just a cover up because people had started asking questions and some authorities thought they could get away with it by convincing Cilcon Limited to also upgrade the St Gabriel road,” said the source on condition of anonymity.
An additional K1, 536, 409, 628. 67, said the source, was demanded by Cilcon Limited for the section and the supervision consultant Royal Associates got K290, 130, 888 to cover additional assignments on the St Gabriel road.
However, he said, the contractor was instructed by Ministry of Transport to concentrate on Dowa road.
Dowa East Member of Parliament, Richard Chimwendo-Banda, blamed government for lack of commitment and affirmed that he would make sure that money that was allocated in this year’s national budget for the road construction has been put to its intended use.
“We want to see how much is in the budget template; otherwise they have just done a cover up and I am aware that the money allocated in the current budget would have been sufficient to complete the road up to Chezi.
“The Chezi section is the most pathetic, yet very important and government should stop taking people of the area for granted. In 2015, Parliament gave government an extra K2.1 billion for the completion of the road and they should not cheat us that they don’t have the money,” said Chimwendo-Banda.
Transport and Public Works Minister, Francis Kasaila, admitted that the road has been facing colossal funding problems and he could not guarantee that the remaining 19.7 kilometres from Dowa district headquarters to Chezi on the Salima (M14) road would be completed anytime soon.
“I must admit that we still have a few issues to sort out with the contractor especially in terms of payments or claims and the general funding of the road. However, the government is committed to completing the road up to Chezi, but not this year,” he said.
Kasaila also blamed the rise in the contract amount to changes in quantities which are based on estimates.
“Basically, works on the road started almost a decade ago and overtime the costs of materials have been going up. In contracts we use a formula which also takes into account the rise in cost of materials and these including many others have contributed to the unnecessary amounts of money being spent on the road,” he said.
He could, however, not be drawn to comment on why the contractor was “asked” to also upgrade the St Gabriel road on top of the initial assignment. He instead referred this paper to the Roads Authority (RA).
We could not get an immediate response from RA.
In 2014, over K521 million was allocated by Parliament for the completion of the road, but no work was done.
In March 2015, concerned citizens from Dowa petitioned government to complete the road on time and demanded that the decision to curtail the road at the district headquarters be scrapped off.
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