The Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI) has demanded an investigation into the procurement process that led to the awarding of a contract to Jiangsu Suzhong Construction Group Company Limited/Plem Construction joint venture by the Southern Region Water Board (SRWB).
The demand follows revelations that SRWB awarded Jiangsu Suzhong Construction Group Company Limited/Plem Construction Limited joint venture at $16.3 million, leaving a local company, Kuwait Dynamic Limited/Fisd, which quoted the contract at $12.3 million.
This means the project will go at a cost of MK1.6 billion more than what the lowest bidder had offered.
CDEDI Executive Director Sylvester Namiwa, in a statement released on Saturday afternoon, expresses concern that the multi-million Kwacha contract is being awarded at a time when the Malawi government is struggling to provide essential services to its citizens such as drugs in our public health facilities across the country.
The country is further struggling to offset the huge external debts from international financial institutions.
“And yet SRWB can afford the luxury of offering a contract to a very expensive bidder! It is a well-known fact that the loan for the project from the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development, will be paid using taxpayers’ money,” reads the statement in part.
Namiwa says it is high time the country started reducing its external debts through prudent use of funds, and not by being extravagant, thereby exposing Malawians to more untold misery.
He acknowledges that there are some technicalities in procurement process, which enabled SRWB to award Jiangsu Suzhong Construction Group Company Limited.
“However, the reservations that have been expressed by the local procurement experts, have prompted CDEDI to speak out on the matter. What is more surprising is that the SRWB evaluation report, which the newspaper was privileged to have gotten hold of, shows that the lowest bidder “passed both preliminary examination and detailed technical evaluation, but was not picked purportedly because the bidder’s pricing offer showed lack of understanding of the “technicalities and complexities of the project.
Such a justification has been shot down by local procurement experts who say that at financial stage, the evaluation should’ve considered financial related matters and not technical issues. From this school of thought, it is crystal clear that some corners have been cut,” suspects Namiwa.
He says investigations CDEDI conducted revealed that the lowest bidder has done a similar job for the SRWB before, an indication that the bidder is well conversant with the job in question, if the bidder’s track record is anything to go by.
He stresses that what SRWB has done to award a contract to a foreign based bidder, is similar to a decision made by the Ministry of Health to award a contract to a foreign based bidder to supply ambulances to the ministry, of which scenarios, the decisions have been made under the administration of the Tonse Alliance government.
“In the SRWB scenario, the decision to award a contract to a foreign based bidder has been made at the watch, and/or with consent from the parastatal’s cohort of board members who have just been recently hired by President Dr. Lazarus Chakwera.
Ironically, the Tonse Alliance government was ushered into office on trust that the administration would honour its promise of creating one million jobs in the country. On the contrary, the one million jobs are now being exported to foreign based bidders, and in the process the country is also losing the much-needed Forex,” Namiwa states.
“It is against this background that Malawians who are taxpayers and CDEDI as an advocacy institution feel duty bound to demand the SRWB to reconsider its decision to award a contract to a foreign based bidder, and save MK1.6 billion.
RWB should further consider waiving some procurement procedures to enable local contractors to have a fair share of the project by either awarding them the contract wholly, or pairing them with the foreign based contractors, in the spirit of promoting the indigenous business people, and abiding by the Tonse Alliance philosophy.”
Lastly, but not the least, CDEDI is asking the Anti- Corruption bureau to zero in and investigate the whole procurement process at the SRWB, since it looks very suspicious, and with very flimsy justification from the concerned staff at the parastatal,” he concludes.