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K74 billion project hangs on thread

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The government risks losing out on a K74 billion loan facility it obtained from the World Bank for the Digital Malawi Project due to delays in procurement processes.

The five-year Digital Malawi Phase 1 was launched in 2017 but is yet to be fully implemented due to delayed procurement for the national primary data centre, internet bandwidth, and computer network infrastructure installation for 500 government offices.

The project’s deadline is June 2024.

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According to our sources, the government would be required to repay the loan now, rather than over a 36-year period agreed upon, if the project does not materialise within the projected timeframe.

The Public Private Partnership Commission (PPPC) is the procuring entity on behalf of the government.

PPPC Chief Executive Officer Patrick Kabambe said there was a one-year delay from the time the loan was authorised by Parliament in 2018, followed by a slowdown in activities due to the Covid pandemic the following year.

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He, however, reaffirmed commitment towards ensuring implementation of the project by the set deadline.

“The purported delays in the procurement process are being addressed with the support from the World Bank and the line agencies responsible for the particular activities,” he said.

The project faced hiccups two months ago as the financier reportedly warned the government against cancelling and relaunching a K14 billion procurement process of a telecommunications connectivity contract, which it intended to award to Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi instead of the two local private companies which were initially awarded the deal.

At this stage, the PPPC was nearly finished with the procurement process, and the World Bank, which oversaw the project’s procurement process, faulted the decision, noting that the procurement was conducted through an open tendering process.

ICT Association of Malawi President Bram Fudzulani has since urged the authorities to engage an extra gear in implementing the project.

“We are behind schedule and the government needs to take this project seriously because there is a lot at stake here,” he said.

World Bank Task Team Leader Luda Bujoreanu did not comment on the matter.

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