CSOs clash over Lake Malawi water project: PAC stick the boot on Khato

Civil society leaders are clashing in Malawi over the US$500 million hair raising water project awarded to Khato Civil Contractors just as its chairman Ashani Simbi Phiri has been a polarizing figure in the media.

Some CSOs speaking in support of Salima-Lilongwe water project

Journalists were on Monday night surprised to see CSO leaders; Macdonald Sembereka and Rogers News, who have a reputation of criticising the government, saying the water project was ideal for Malawi and Khato Civil Contractors were the best option to undertake such a huge project.

This comes at a time when other civil society leaders are asking the government to halt the project until there is an open tender for the project and an environmental assessment is made among other things.

The other civil society groups are demanding an open process and procedure, diligence and justification of the staggering budget of US$500 million for the small and squeezed economy of Malawi.

However, Sembereka said the water project is people centred and worth pursuing.

Sembereka feels  Simbi as a  Malawian born billionaire  should be given a chance to prove himself that he can deliver the complex project.

“He is one of us,” Sembereka said, calling for Malawians to be supportive to their kinsman.

Other activists who spoke during the press briefing said it would be gross insensitivity for Malawians to be calling for the cancellation of the contract when already had been spent.

Phiri, who is chairperson of Khato Holdings Limited, told Nyasa Times that he has already spent $56 million on the project in procuring equipment among others.

Newa, on the other hand said the project, after completion, would ensure constant supply of water for residents in the Capital City, Lilongwe.

This comes at a time when Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale has raised a red flag over the water project, insisting some agreements need to be changed.

Among others, Khato is expected to raise the US$500 million through other financing using the government as.a guarantor which is very unusual and an anomaly legally.

On the other hand, the Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC)  chairperson Alekeni Menyani has said without the feasibility study and independent cost estimates, the project cannot proceed.

“As  a committee of Parliament elected by the people to speak on their behalf., we cannot let this go on. We too join in to demand for transparency and accountability to protect the future of pur nation.” Menyani said.

He said both leadership of the government and opposition are compromised to speak on the matter as Khato owner has been giving them gifts in form of cars and cash.

And, Finance Minister, Goodall Gondwe, says authorities will have to find a better way of how to deal with the issue of the feasibility study but ruled out cancellation.

Gondwe, a veteran economist, backed the initial arrangement of awarding the contract.

“In some instances such things [errors] do happen,” said Gondwe, in an interview with The Daily Times.

He said government will have to do a review.

“What I mean is that we will have to deal with the question of feasibility study,” he said.

He insisted that “elsewhere such cased do happen.”

Gondwe also revealed that the Malawi government was yet to decide on which financier to fund the project, adding that there are a number investors that government will have to pick from.

And, a commentary in the same daily criticised government for always being hasty in the manner it handles its contracts.

Referring to the recent maize procurement scam from Zambia, the editorial commentary advised that government should “learn from mistakes that it makes as far as protecting and managing the public purse is concerned.”

Added the commentary: “Today, the country faces another deal, the Salima-Lilongwe Water Project, whose transactions raise more questions than answers. Ironically, Lilongwe Water Board (LWB) Chief Executive Officer, Alfonso Chikuni, claims that LWB had to forego Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) because Lilongwe faced an imminent water crisis. To date, Lilongwe is not as dry as Chikuni wanted us to believe.”

According to the paper, it is so blood curdling that the DPP insists that such suspicious transactions are not peculiar to Malawi and that the project will be reviewed along the way.

Once the Salima-Lilongwe water pipeline project is completed, it is expected that 50 million litres will be supplied per day in Lilongwe which suffer chronic water shortages.

Lilongwe Water Board, owners of the project, say after completion of the project, 25000 houses would be connected to water and the shortages of water that hits the capital city would drastically be reduced.

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This contract was handed to Khato by the three people I know. These are, Ben Phiri, George Mkondiwa and Chakwera promised Khato that he will protect him if the issues goes to parliament. There may be other names, but these are the ones I am sure of.

martin Harawa

All this talk is because of the money involved and the works being done by a Malawian.If it wrre Mota Engil nothing O of this talk could have emerged. Nsanje basi a Malawi . We are alwys thinking about corruption pa china chili chonse

James Phiri

This really is Lilongwe Watergate – parliament please investigate

Peter phiri

it is regrettable that Honourable Goodall Gondwe seems to suggest that the Project can proceed even without first conducting a feasibility study.

We have laws governing environmental affairs. Why should we continue to pick and choose the laws that we will abide to? Why have these laws in the first place?

The President was elected on the understanding that he will defend the Constitution and the lawfully approved laws of the land. I call on the State President to do the right thing.

Robert Bruce

Another Cash Gate another Maze Gate and yet another Water Gate. Let us stop these Gate’s, as Malawi cannot afford to be continually raped by it’s own MALAWIAN POLITICIANS.

G. Phiri
In my opinion somehow the government is right. i don’t blame Muntharika on this one because he has little knowledge on valuating the Environment. To my side am looking at cost and befit analysis of water from lake Malawi (existence value for water vs option value for Malawi Government). Lilongwe has less water supply but one factor is over-population coupled with urbanization) therefore what we need a stable water supply thus lake Malawi. but the need to to conserve water from lake Malawi and it biodiversity is more VALUABLE in future than finding a stable water supply now!! because that’s… Read more »
Yahya Jammeh
I totally stand by the position of PAC, not the SCOs who have been secretly been silenced by a big blue ban. You don’t give work to a contractor on the premise of giving them a chance to try because of the relationship, but to do the job and do it well. Sembereka’s argument that because owner of Katho is Malawian is not a qualification on its own and smacks of nepotism which true -loving Malawians are against unless a clause was clearly included in a tender that the work shall be undertaken by Malawian. A reasonable argument should be… Read more »
James Phiri

Procurement procedures must be followed. Such procedures are in place for a reason. This whole thing needs investigating. You can’t award a massive contract before doing feasibility and environmental impact assessment.


By the way, does Lilongwe consume 4 trillion liters of water per day. (Malingunde Dam + Salima /Lilongwe water project.). Someone is exaggerating the need.Exactly what happened with maize gate.
But be warned, if you jump procedures the contract is illegal. Taxpayers may seek court injunction because they cannot afford to see their money wasted.

Government should just share this project to the cities of Mzuzu, Lilongwe, Blantyre and Zomba because we all face water shortages.

Citizen weniweni

Goverment has reservation because it will be done at Central Region. DPP Govt wants all senseble development should be in the south . Bingu
Stadium was sopposed to be built in Soche , Blantyre, Pano akufuna kugumula Kamuzu Stadium ataona iyi inalephereka,Cancer Centre wanted it to be in south. There is BWB project (Mulanje – Blantyre water project) has not faced these hipcups except with MJ residents.

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