Ministry of Transport and Public Works has missed the deadline to re-evaluate bids for the rehabilitation of the Marka-Bangula railway line which seeks to connect Malawi to the Indian Ocean port of Beira in Mozambique.
The re-evaluation followed a December 3 2021 statement by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) which faulted the initial evaluation process for the tender awarded to Mota-Engil.
The ministry was given 15 days to re-evaluate three successful bids and the period expired on Friday.
Newly- appointed Minister of Transport and Public Works Jacob Hara asked for more time before responding to our questionnaire while Deputy Minister Nancy Chaola Mdooko referred us to the ministry’s public relations officer Horace Boti who said Hara was better-placed to indicate the position.
In its statement, the ACB said bearing in mind the importance of the project to the Malawi economy and that it is part of a bilateral arrangement between Malawi and Mozambique the process should be done within 15 days.
In an interview yesterday, ACB director general Martha Chizuma said she is yet to get an update from the ministry on the matter in line with
Section 10(4) of the Corrupt Practices Act provides that once the bureau has carried out any investigation of any alleged or suspected corrupt practice or offence, it has to report its findings and recommendations to the appropriate authority, in this case the Ministry of Transport and Public Works for action.
Reads the section: “The bureau may require the appropriate authority to take or institute such corrective action or measure as the bureau shall reasonably specify in the report or to explain to the bureau why such action or measure may not be taken or instituted, or what other action or measure may instead be taken or instituted, and the bureau may make such modification to its recommendations or requirements as it may consider desirable.”
In September this year,
ACB issued a restriction notice stopping Ministry of Transport and Public Works from dealing with this contract following a complaint which alleged that there was fraud and corruption in the awarding of the contract.
The restriction notice came a week after Ministry of Transport and Public Works published a notification for intention to award Mota-Engil the K48 billion contract to reconstruct the 72-kilometre railway line.
Mota-Engil emerged the successful bidder with the lowest price of K48 244 861 524.98 against two others, namely China Railway at K59 906 673 465.11 and China Civil Engineering at K79 766 540 032.76.
The reconstruction of the stretch from Marka to Bangula follows discussions between President Chakwera and his Mozambican counterpart Felipe Nyusi in October.
The project has delayed as bid evaluation was completed a year ago.
Mozambique, on the other hand, has almost completed its stretch to Marka.
During Nyusi’s visit to Malawi, part of the initial programme was for the two leaders to inspect the project in Nsanje, but there was a last minute change attributed to a technical problem with a chopper the two were to use.
In a confidential memo dated June 16 2021, Chakwera gave a go-ahead to the Ministry of Transport and Public Works to proceed with the awarding of the contract.
Earlier this year, Malawi and Mozambique signed a memorandum of understanding which set March 2022 as deadline for completion of the works.
Chakwera has expressed commitment to revamp railway transport which he believes is a catalyst for economic growth.
According to the project feasibility study report released in 2015, Beira and Nacala handle over 90 percent of Malawi’s trade.
The Sena Corridor railway line was closed in the 1980s following civil war in Mozambique, but the railway line between Bangula in Nsanje and Limbe in Blantyre continued to operate until floods damaged a bridge at Chiromo in 1996. Since then, only the section between Makhanga and Limbe has been operational