Amid shocking revelations that government owes contractors over MK 120 billion in unpaid debts and interests charges, Malawi News undercover investigations have exposed how former ruling elite used the Road Authority (RA) as a vehicle to siphon taxpayers’ money and drive Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)’s agenda to win votes in the run up to the June 23 fresh presidential elections.
In a letter dated March 24, 2020 Ref No: ADM/2/1, former Minister of Transport and Public Works Ralph Jooma made a special request to then Minister of Finance, Josephy Mwanamveka, to set aside funds amounting to K 46 billion to cater for upgrading of 10 roads from earth to bitumen standard. He further went on to request the Minister of Finance to immediately release an advance payment amounting to K9.3 billion to enable works to commence.
“I am pleased to inform you that the procurement processes of the 10 road projects are almost completed and that the projects will shortly be awarded to various contractors at a total cost of MK 46 billion as detailed below,” reads part of the letter.
However, of the 10 road projects, seven of them are from the Southern Region, two from the Centre and one from the North.
The road projects include upgrading of the Makande- Chimwawa-Namachete (K 4, 260, 360, 632.70) Cape Maclear road (K 3,563,898,954.27), Thunga – Mpando – Nkhate -Eastbank road (K 4,125,356,302.91), Mikolongwe – Chikaonda – Thumbwe – PIM road (K 3,789,093,386.38), Nsanama – Nayuchi road (K 5,361,576,130.35), Rumphi – Nyika road (K 4,022,531,785.87), and Ntchisi – Malomo road (K 4,173,351,450.99) where a total of K 4, 638, 934,815 was made as advance payment.
Our sources show that contractors for these road projects were only ‘hand-picked’ and most of them were awarded contracts just before the fresh presidential elections.
According to the Public Procurement Act, all procurements are supposed to be advertised and the lowest evaluated bidder is supposed to get the job. Our investigations have showed us that these jobs were not advertised.
We have also establisehd that construction of majority of these road projects have not commenced despite contractors getting advance payment four months ago.
Our investigations have further exposed that the Road Authority helped the former ruling DPP to create what they termed ‘’special projects’’ whose main motive is alleged to have been wooing votes.
Our sources also reveal that the Roads Authority had planned to use the Area 18 interchange as a show off to garner votes for the former ruling party in the Central Region.
Apparently, the projects were also a means to syphon tax payers’ money to be used for campaign.
Meanwhile, the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has written the Anti – Corruption Bureau (ACB) to investigate the matter.
Through a letter addressed to ACB Director Reyneck Matemba, HRDC wants the anti-graft body to investigate how government gave advance payments to contractors to commerce projects that were not advertised in the newspapers and for RA to ‘handpick’ the contractors.
“As you might be aware, HRDC is running a whistle blower initiative. We have received some information that we wish to share with you, It is alleged that during the campaign period for the fresh Presidential Elections in 2020, Government made some payments out of Treasury on the pretext that the money would be advance payment for construction of 10 road projects, mainly in the Southern Region. The total amount for the project was MK46, 006,005,794.10,” it reads in part.
HRDC also wants ACB to investigate former cabinet minister Jooma, who wrote the then Minister of Finance, Mwanamvekha, requesting the K9, 201, 201,158.80 as a 20 percent advance working capital to the alleged contractors.
HRDC further says ACB should investigate the alleged 20 percent advance payment that was made, adding that no works have started in the projects except for the Bolero– Nyika road.
Matemba confirmed to have received the letter
“I must say the information that HRDC has shared with us is very valuable. And because of the amounts of money involved, we will definitely prioritize this case,” he said.
Commenting on the matter, Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency Executive Director, Willy Kambwandira, decried that institutionalised corruption and fraud had characterised the construction industry in the past five years.
Kambwandira has since advised the Tonse Administration to pay attention to implementation and completion of projects that will only create direct positive impact on the lives of Malawians.
“Unfortunately, all this mess happened right in the eyes of public oversight bodies such as the Anti-Corruption Bureau and the various Parliamentary Committees in the National Assembly. The revelation only shows that these oversight bodies were either captured by the former ruling party or were incompetent to execute their constitutional oversight mandate. However, moving forward, it is our advice to the current government to prioritize on projects that have directive positive impacts on Malawians,” he said.
When contacted, RA spokesperson, Portia Kajanga, asked for more time before she could respond.
When contacted to comment, Democratic Progressive Party spokesperson Brown Mpinganjira has denied the allegations
“HRDC should do its investigation and not just writing on hearsay because there are some progress on the road projects they have mentioned,” Mpinganjira said.