Scope of work did not include construction and strengthening of the bridge
The People’s Republic of China Embassy in Malawi disowns attribution to the wash away of the Kyungu Bridge in Karonga that has been attributed to the Chinese contractors, Zhejiang Communications Group Co. Ltd, saying the scope of work the company was contracted to do on Karonga-Songwe Road did not include construction and strengthening of this bridge.
This comes amidst the death of three people — a Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) officer and his other two friends — from the Immigration Department officer — who died on Wednesday night (April 21) after the car they were travelling in plunged into a flooded river when they failed to notice that the Kyungu Bridge had been washed away by strong rain water flow.
Soon after the death of the three, Vice-President Saulos Chilima — who was in the North inspecting some development projects at the instructions of President Lazarus Chakwera — visited the spot of the accident in the company of Paramount Chief Kyungu himself.
He said in a statement on Facebook that the focus was to re-open traffic by the next day in which works was to fill up the washed away section with 120 trucks of quarry and rocks.
“Issues of negligence and poor workmanship will be handled later, but for now the focus is to open traffic by tomorrow,” Chilima said.
The Roads Authority then issued a statement after the bridge was temporary opened for traffic that the washed away bridge was constructed in the late 1980s when the road was being constructed but being a “problematic area it also got washed away in 2002”.
The Roads Authority attests to the fact that “during the Karonga-Songwe rehabilitation project, the scope of works did not include construction of the Kyungu Bridge, but the road was rehabilitated, where the existing road was milled down to 200mm and this material was processed to make sub-base”.
“The milled material was crushed stone, and another 150mm thick layer of crushed stone was constructed. The wearing course was constructed in 40mm thick asphalt concrete [as done by] the contractor Zhejiang Communications Group Co. Ltd”.
But the Roads Authority says “due to the proximity of the contractor to the wash away site” Zhejiang Communications Group Co. Ltd “has been asked to reinstate the washed away section” to which the Chinese Embassy has responded.
The Embassy says it has communicated with the Malawi Roads Authority and takes cognizance that “the bridge was constructed in the late 1980s and Zhejiang Communications Group Co. Ltd’s scope of work did not include the construction and strengthening of Kyungu Bridge”.
This comes after strong word of warning from Chilima that poor workmanship by contractors will not be tolerated especially when he learnt of the tragic incident that involved the wash-away at Kyungu Bridge that also stopped essential economic traffic flow between Malawi and Tanzania.
“I had to travel back to Karonga to have a clear understanding of the problem and mobilise the right minds to work around the clock and find a solution as quickly as possible,” reported Chilima in a statement made on Facebook.
He reported that his visit to the North was to inspect and appreciate the implementation of public projects as well as tracking progress of public sector reforms in councils.
He visited projects in Mzimba, Karonga, Rumphi and Mzuzu City, as well as in Nkhata Bay where the Northern Region Water Board is implementing a US$30.5 million water supply project that will benefit 60,000 people through improvement in water supply and sanitation by November, 2022.
“The project will upgrade the treatment plant from the current 1,450 cubic metres/day to 20,000 cubic metres/day as well as upgrade transmission lines to reach 29kms.
“It has become important to monitor progress of these projects to understand the challenges so that projects are delivered within schedule without cost overruns.”
He said later, he held reform meetings with Nkhata Bay and Likoma District Councils, who “have demonstrated that processes are being done which will translate into results that will benefit not only the Council but the people of these districts”.
“I continued stressing that the financial sustainability of councils is non-negotiable. Following the 1998 devolution policy now under review, councils should aim to be independent of central government by implementing various projects to meet people’s needs.
“Councils must learn to prioritise things that will give them gains with minimal interventions, particularly in the social sectors. These projects can be phased in order of priority and ease of implementation. Malawians do not have the luxury of waiting, they have waited too long.
“It is the wish of the Tonse Alliance administration, through His Excellency Dr. Lazarus Chakwera, President of the Republic, that funding is identified to complete major projects within the stipulated time,” he reported.
Among others, Chilima also inspected Chakazi bridge in Mzimba an important bridge that connects Mzimba Boma to Euthini and Mbalachanda, which is being constructed in phases with the first part involving erecting pillars for which the contractor already completed the works and was paid.
He also inspected the Mzuzu Aquaculture Centre, a project that is set to enhance fish production at a large scale in the city.
“I encouraged the authorities to take the initiative as a model that could be replicated in other places across the country.
“Otherwise, I have had a fruitful working visit in the north. It was a marathon programme but we had to do it in five days because we also have the Eastern and Southern regions to visit to inspect projects as well as monitor progress of Reforms in Councils.
“On top of that, we have three weeks to go before we submit a Recommendation Report on the three government systems of Procurement, Allowances and Employment Contracts as mandated by His Excellency Dr. Lazarus Chakwera, President of the Republic of Malawi.”Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :