Engineering and Construction experts have warned that Malawi will continue to spend a lot of money on repairs and substandard infrastructures if it continues to hire incompetent players while spending low on such infrastructures.
This comes against a spate of criticism towards the government on social media following the washing away of sections of some newly constructed roads and bridges in some parts of the country.
In an interview, President of the Malawi Institute of Engineers (MIE), Wilson Chirwa, pointed out the continued substandard work on roads are due to incompetence, low budget lines, lack of proper supervision and unethical behaviour.
“Generally poor roads are not associated with certain reputable contractors and engineers who have proven their competence over the years. However, it is an issue among some players in these two fields. Low budget lines also mean high quality road finishes cannot be specified.
“Proper supervision may not be exercised in all the processes because the consultant charged very low fees that make no business sense. The contractor may also cheat by not using appropriate materials. This has been the case on certain roads where the contractor came from a country that provided the funding,” Chirwa said.
He added that there is need for contractors and consultants who have a good track record to be identified and be given the jobs.
“…also clients should avoid awarding contracts based on the least price for both contractor and consultant and those who engage in substandard work should be banned from further participation in public tenders for road works,” Chirwa added.
Chairperson of the Construction Sector Transparency Initiative (CoSTI) Malawi Chapter, Joe Ching’ani, added that there is need to revisit the type of designs that are used for various infrastructures in the country.
“We need to have designs that are produced professionally and then we should also look at the level of supervision that is being applied in these infrastructure programmes and at the end of it all, we may wish to consider the kind of budgets that go into this because sometimes the contractor would do work with the available money overlooking critical precautions of the project because he doesn’t have a budget line,” Ching’ani said.
Managing Director of a South Africa-based Mdina Engineering, Tione Mdina, said Malawi should focus on accreditation of bodies which are involved in infrastructure development such as laboratories.
“Accredited laboratories should check if the materials used are of the right strength and are complying with the right standards.
“Not only laboratories, we are talking of material suppliers as well. They need to comply with the standards no matter what. So if we have an unaccredited supplier, after doing our incident investigation, we can go to the supplier and say the mixture was not meeting minimum requirements,” Mdina said.
Last year President, Peter Mutharika, warned construction companies that government would not pay for substandard road projects after some company he did not name had done the same.