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Government blames state of roads in Malawi on corruption

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Minister of Transport and Public Works Jacob Hara has lamented corruption in the construction industry, which he claims is one of the contributing factors to poor infrastructure in the country.

His remarks come at a time several roads in the country have been damaged either due to natural disasters or worn out a few years after being constructed.

Following tropical storms Ana and Gombe, most roads in the country, particularly those in the Lower Shire, have been severely damaged, a development which has been raising concerns about the standards that government approves.

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But there are several other roads too that are in a bad state regardless that they were not affected by the cyclones.

Speaking in an interview Friday, Hara said while there is a lot at play in terms of the conditions of roads in Malawi, most contractors cut corners, which compromise the quality of work on the projects.

“The conventional roads are supposed to be 20-year designs so a good road with proper maintenance is supposed to last 20 years before it develops potholes and the like. A good example is the M1 road between Kasungu and Mzuzu. That road was constructed 20 years ago and it has withstood the test of time. The only difference is that it has not been maintained and the edges are eaten up. The point I want to make is that a road is supposed to have that type of design.

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“However, there are two things that happen; sometimes it is the designers themselves that cut corners. They do not do some tests and sometimes they use experience which probably does not match the conditions of the road.

“Sometimes, it is probably the contractor that cut corners because of corruption and that compromises on the work of the road. In the end we have a road that is not strong enough so that is what usually happens. It is usually corruption; that is why our roads are not in good shape. Of course, sometimes it is the natural occurrences,” he said.

One of the trending pictures in the past few weeks has been that of damage on the M1 Road at Kammwamba in Neno which led to a truck being stuck.

In an interview with Malawi News on Thursday, Group Village Somisomi of Traditional Authority Symon said during this rainy season alone, the road has been extensively damaged for not less than four times.

“This is a crucial road. It connects people between Lilongwe and Blantyre and several other places along the way. Such damages are death traps to people. We know that poor roads usually lead to accidents. And we have witnessed so many accidents along this road.

“You would almost think that the government pays a blind eye because these roads leave a lot to be desired. A lot of them are death traps,” he said.

However, Hara said currently the government is working with the World Bank to develop a system so that the infrastructure built in the country is resilient.

“What happens is that we have regional teams at Roads Authority who drive around for road inspections. That is how we identify problems. But that is not the right way of doing it because they are supposed to have machines to detect the problems.

“However, we are working on a plan with the World Bank. We want to develop some kind of design so that we have resilience in our infrastructure so that we know that once we do a bridge, we have done it once and for all,” he said.

In the wake of damage to roads and other infrastructure in some parts of the country, it has emerged that Malawi does not have its own sets of National Building Code and National Construction Code.

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