The Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Climate Change has cast doubt on the ability of the government to commence the Salima- Lilongwe Water Project this year.
The Ministry of Water and Sanitation has indicated that all negotiations are finalised and that the government would fund the project, which is expected to commence this year, a claim the committee says is doubtful.
Chairperson for the committee Werani Chilenga said they have been following the issue and that, despite being informed about possible dates for implementation, nothing has materialised.
“We do not believe that they are telling us the truth because, each time we ask them, we are told that it is going to start on such, such a date because the project is this, the project is that.
“To us, it is like another story for the beginning of the year. Let us cross the bridge first,” Chilenga said.
However, Secretary for Water and Sanitation Elias Chimulambe insists that the Salima-Lilongwe Water Project remains one of the government’s flagship projects, but admitted that there have been some challenges along the way.
“We had some challenges with the financing arrangement [but we are] now coming to the conclusion, which means we are ready to roll out the Salima-Lilongwe Water Project and I would like to confirm that the Ministry of Finance and our ministry are ready to start it [this year],” Chimulambe said.
He added that there is a financing arrangement in which the contractor of the project would source the funder but in line with government conditions.
“…but, whatever the case, it is the government that is funding… if it is a loan, it means the Malawi Government is funding it, it is not necessarily important as to who is giving out the loan,” Chimulambe added.
In the Salima-Lilongwe Water Project, the Central Region Water Board is expected to tap water from Salima to Lilongwe City and will also supply the water to other districts within the region.
Khato Civils and South Zambezi, who are the contractors, were supposed, to identify a financier, with the government providing a sovereign guarantee for the loan.
In March last year, Finance Minister Sosten Gwengwe told Parliament that the government had identified an Australian finance company to provide a $330 million loan for the project.
In December last year, Quay Energy Corp (Aus) Pty Ltd, which expressed interest in funding the project, dismissed Gwengwe’s claims that it was struggling to find finances to roll out the project.
Quay Director Anthony Leenders said the financer had been in constant negotiations with the Government of Malawi since November 2021 to agree on terms of financing the project.
He said while it may appear that the negotiations have taken an unreasonably long time, it was to ensure that all local legal requirements are fully complied with.
Mathews Kasanda is a journalist who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from University of Malawi (The Polytechnic).
In 2015, Media Institute of Southern Africa awarded him the Best Print Media Education Journalist of the Year accolade.
He joined Times Group Newsroom in September 2019.