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New Traffic system still nightmare

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As Malawians continue to suffer long queues and slow service due to a new cumbersome system that government has installed at Road Traffic Directorate, it has emerged that Minister of Minister of Transport and Public Infrastructure Francis Kasaila was warned that it would bring “disruptions in services to Malawi citizens which will result in criticism for the ministry whilst being implemented.’’

But the minister ignored the advice.

The company that Government engaged between 2000 and 2012 to provide a Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) solution for the Malawi Traffic Information System (MalTIS) at the Directorate of Road Traffic and Safety Services warned Government of the challenges that might be brought by the new system.

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Malawi News has seen a letter dated July 26, 2014 that the firm, Face Technologies Pty

Limited wrote Kasaila warning that the new system will bring disruptions and suffering to Malawi.

In an interview on Thursday a very charged Kasaila claimed the company tried to hoodwink him into giving it a contract through the back door.

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The new system installed in May this year has been faulted by users who are questioning why the project cost has ballooned by over K300 million.

Inside sources at the directorate have also confided in Malawi News that the directorate has so far paid over K800 million to the contractor, MOVESA and Fischer Consortium, without duly set milestones demanded by such contracts.

Initially, the consultant’s asking fee to upgrade the system was at K1, 027,856,928.50 but according to documents that Malawi News has seen, the amount that is going to be paid is K1, 357,361,991.57 translating into an additional K329, 505, 063.07.

But Managing Director for Face Technologies JE Serfontein warned in the letter that buying or re-tendering for an upgraded MalTIS system will also have cost implications on government.

“The full capital cost (to the Government of Malawi) of a complete new MalTIS system is estimated at US$20 million (over K9 billion),” writes Serfontein in the letter titled ‘Letter of Concern – MalTIS System’.

He said this estimate includes new software, hardware, driving licence cards, card printers and networking.

“Software, hardware, training, networking and support over a period of five years will be a further US$15 million (over K6.7 billion). Therefore, the total capital cost to Government will be US$35 million (over K15.8 billion),” he says.

Serfontein also said there is no guarantee of increase in revenue due to delays with getting the new system up and running which could take an estimated three to four years before a return on investment.

“Extensive staff training will be required which will further delay the immediate revenue collection,” he says.

“In December 2011, Face Technologies advised the Ministry that we would not be tendering for the upgraded MalTIS. This decision was taken because we would be able to provide the requirements to the Ministry at a much low cost and far quicker than third party suppliers,” writes Serfontein in the letter.

“We also stated that, as the designers, builders and implementers of this system, only Face Technologies can upgrade it due to its complexity and built in security features and control measures. Without this knowledge, a third party would need to totally replace the system instead of upgrading it,” he adds.

He also said they advised the Ministry of the risks if a third party was used to upgrade MalTIS as is the case at the moment.

Serfontein said when his firm won a tender to provide the MalTIS solution that included network, software, hardware, and extensive training, skills transfer and support to six sites in Malawi until December 2010 the system became a leading revenue generator for the Treasury.

“The Face Technologies MalTIS was provided in 2000 at a cost of US$3million. Since then it has generated US$68 million for the Government,” he claims.

But Kasaila was adamant.

“I am not going to deal with these people who did not bid for the provision of the service,” charged Kasaila.

“They have no interest in this and I am not going to give them a job outside the normal procurement procedures. They did not participate, they have no interest in the business and please don’t get used by these people,” he added.

“They came to my office and I told them that what they wanted to do was to get a service through the backdoor which is not acceptable,” he charged.

In an earlier interview Director for the Directorate of Road Traffic and Safety Services Jacques Manong’a said he knows that the former contractor Face Technology is frustrated.

“There has been a very damaging report that the first consultant has compiled and sent to the Office of the President and Cabinet directly sent to my boss the chief Secretary which was meant to have other people fired from their jobs,” said Manong’a while showing the said report.

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