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Questions over interchange cost

CSO writes ACB to probe Roads Authority, Mota

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The cost of constructing the Area 49 to Parliament Roundabout road, including the Area 18 Interchange, jumped by 115 percent from the initial K6.7 billion to K14.4 billion, The Daily Times has established.

This has forced rights body, the Centre for Mindset Change (CMC), to write Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Director General Martha Chizuma to investigate Roads Authority (RA) officials and contractor Mota Engil over the astronomical rise in the contract price.

However, RA Chief Executive Officer Emmanuel Matapa on Wednesday said the Area 49 to Parliament Round-about road project and the Area 18 Interchange project are two different projects and needed to be treated as such.

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Mota Engil spokesperson Thomas Chafunya said, on the other hand, that the company was not moved and welcomed every step to clear its name.

In the letter signed by CMC Executive Director Phillip Kamangirah, the organisation claims that an RA audit which Scott Wilson conducted faulted the contractor for altering the original plan without engaging the contracting office.

“We suspect corruption and a systematic system of siphoning hard-earned taxes through construction projects. Our suspicion is cemented in the fact that an audit report by Scott Wilson revealed that variations to the contract were instituted without proper documentation and approvals.

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“And the supervising consultant was faulted for certifying payments prior to approvals of variation orders,” the letter reads.

The organisation has asked the ACB chief to investigate the issues exposed in the audit report by Scott Wilson.

Kamangira claims that the audit report was deliberately suppressed despite highlighting irregularities.

“It will be good if ACB can request for this particular audit report and records of what happened afterwards as far as handling of this report is concerned,” the letter reads.

But Matapa Wednesday said there was, in the original plan of the Area 49 to Parliament Round-about road, no Interchange, adding that the cost of the original road project was around K6.7 billion.

He said the Interchange project came after the road project had already been agreed, adding that the cost of the Interchange project alone is around K7.3 billion.

He said the K14 billion figure is coming up as a total sum of the two projects.

Matapa further disclosed that, in coming up with the Interchange, the consulting engineers (Pamodzi Engineering Consultants) conducted a number of surveys which included traffic count; traffic capacity analysis; geotechnical surveys and topographic surveys.

“The design of the Interchange was, therefore, based on these surveys, which translated into the cost,” he said.

According to Matapa, RA had to seek approvals from authorities in the procurement process and that approvals for the same were granted before commencement of works on the Interchange.

He noted that other challenges which were encountered during construction of the Interchange included the proximity of the Interchange to the Glass House on one side and new hotel which was being built on the other, which would have heavily raised the cost of the project if works proceeded.

“Instead, the authority shifted the interchange a bit by taking part of the graveyard and Chimutu Primary School, whose cost was much lesser,” Matapa said.

The RA chief further said his organisation has commented on the issue several times and felt that this is time to move on and focus on more recent projects like the six-lane Kenyatta Road under construction in Lilongwe.

On his part, Chafunya, while welcoming any investigations into the matter, expressed concern over the sincerity of CMC’s concerns.

“Isn’t it strange to see that those in a position of getting correct and accurate information from duty-bearers like Roads Authority, Roads Fund Administration and the government itself go wantonly slandering a major employer and huge player in Malawi’s construction industry?” Chafunya queried.

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