Contractor abandons Mzuzu market

A contractor has abandoned the unfinished Mzuzu Flea market following disagreements over payments with the Mzuzu City Council, Nyasa Times has established.

The contractor, Lembuka Building Contractors, left the project a month ago after the council refused to pay him.

Mzuzu City Council officials on Tuesday waited in vain for the contractor to come for a hand over ceremony for the unfinished MK120 million market but the contractor never came.

“The contractor wanted payment over the job he did on works that were not on the Bill of Quantities. We cannot pay for that its irregular,” said a senior official at the Mzuzu City Council.

The official said the Council has since re-tendered the contract.

Down across Mzuzu market

The Mzuzu market project has been dodged by controversies since six years ago when the project commenced ranging from site proposals, a supposed lack of funds, procurement bottlenecks, legal battles with contractors and allegations of kickbacks.

The market is located near Lunyangwa River where vendors usually relive themselves since there are inadequate toilets at the nearby temporary market.

Mzuzu Vendors have over the years been frothing and seething with anger over the delay of the market and such cries as usual have fallen on deaf ears because the Mzuzu City Council is never short of excuses and complaints.

“We don’t know what is happening. They only tell us that money was misappropriated. Sometimes they tell us that the contractor has sued them for MK40 million. Now we don’t know which is which,” Mzuzu Vendors President Stanley Simbeye told Nyasa Times.

Simbeye also said they have once again asked the Council to speed up the opening of the market so that some vendors being chased in the streets have a place to do business.

But Mzuzu Chief Executive Officer Richard Hara said the market will open its doors in 2012.

When the Malawi government qualified for the (Highly Indebted Poor Countries) HIPC completion point in 2007 it contributed K60 million from the HIPC funds as its contribution towards the construction of three flea markets in Lilongwe, Blantyre and Mzuzu.

Simple mathematics show that Mzuzu got K20 million to kick start the project.

Again Press Trust in support of the government’s Operation Dongosolo (restore order) made available a further K90 million to three projects.

“Work stopped because of payments and we have just got payment from Press Trust and we will meet this week Thursday to chat the way forward. By from my lay man point I think the next three months will be for preparations but actual work to finish the structure will commence four months later,” Hara said.

Mzuzu again got another K30 million and had K50 million in total for the project and at that time the cost of the market was pegged at K53 million each, which meant the Councils were expected to shore up K3 million each as their commitment to the projects.

From a mere K53 million the cost of the project reached more K 124 million almost twice the original cost.

Commentators now believe that Mzuzu City Council’s commitment to the project is at worst questionable and at best a disservice to a government that is working hard to try to serve the people.

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