The Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) and Forum for National Development (FND) have challenged the Tonse Alliance-led administration to clear the mist surrounding the future of the development of police infrastructure between an investor and the Malawi Government.
The infrastructure—to be built by contractor World Wide Construction Limited—includes 140 new police staff houses and an office complex with 24 offices at Area 30 in three phases.
But Lands Minister Kezzie Msukwa , her deputy Abida Mia and Minister of Holeand Security Richard Chimwendo Banda disagree with the terms and conditions of the agreement, stressing that it is not in the best interest of the country.
Chimwendo Banda and Msukwa told journalists that the government had decided to discontinue a legally binding agreement .
But HRCC and FND feel that, after announcing the discontinuation of the project, the two ministers should have clearly stated how the new government intends to proceed with the project.
In a statement issued igned by HRCC board chairperson Robert Mkwezalamba and FND chairperson Bright Kampaundi, the two civil society organisations have called upon the two ministers to clarify their stand whether they want to cancel the project or simply wanted to review the conditions.
Mkwezalamba and Kampaundi argue that the ministers have given conflicting statements to the media, which have ended up confusing taxpayers.
“The conflicting statements imply that the government wants to review the contract while other details stipulate that the government has cancelled the project altogether. As CSOs we call upon the ministers to come clearly on their pronouncements as this may negatively affect the project.
“As CSOs, we took an initiative to review the project documents including understanding the whole concept and supported the initiative which is going to see the face of Lilongwe lifted while at the same time providing spacious and modern homes for our men and women in uniform,” reads the statement in part.
Phase one requires that the contractor builds 140 three bed-roomed houses, office blocks, an armoury, a shooting range, a garage plus inspection pit, parade and football grounds and a multipurpose hall at various locations.
“It is a fact that the current location of C Company and their residential homes can no longer suffice as residential areas as the place is suitable for sky scrapers and state of the art buildings to reflect Malawi’s movement into the 21st century from the old colonial and tiny houses which have remained a sorry sight in the city.
“Just like the government has shown interest to re-discuss some projects that have been contentious in the past administration, as CSO’s we see no problem with the government reviewing any grey areas of the same project and improving on the agreement to have a win-win situation,” it adds.
Phase two of the deal also includes construction of an additional 160 three-bed-roomed residential houses at the National Police headquarters, Area 30, in Lilongwe.
For first phase, the contractor was not paid in cash for the construction and services to replace the existing infrastructure.
Instead, World Wide Construction was offered the current premises in Lilongwe’s Area 2 where the Malawi Police Service (MPS) C Division is accommodated in a deal made in in May 2019.
Mkwezalamba and Kampaundi have cautioned the government to treadcarefully in taking action on contracts that were duly signed and part performance of the same has been achieved.
They fear that the complete cancellation of the project could be costly to the taxpayers and will also affect the completion of any project.
“We would like to appeal to the Tonse Alliance Government, in the spirit it has agreed to adopt and complete all sustainable and realistic projects initiated by the DPP government to tread carefully and refrain from being influenced by selfish individuals into making decisions that may be costly to taxpayers.
“ As CSOs we have welcomed the political will displayed by the line Ministers in touring the project and commending works underway but strongly appeal to government against unnecessary cancellation of the project but give it a chance to review the contract where need be to foster a win-win situation,” Mkwezalamba and Kampaundi emphasize.
They say in the spirit of public accountability, the ministries should make the contract public through local print and highlight grey areas that need to be reviewed for Malawians to make informed opinions /decisions on the same.
“We have the hope and trust that politics will not disturb this good intentioned project as we have seen other projects suffering where undue interference was allowed,” Mkwezalamba and Kampaundi say.
In his reaction, Msukwa assured that government will make everything public to allay public suspicion on the matter.
“In fact, we are taking that issue to the House [Parliament] because we cannot do it on our own. We have to involve the House. At the same time, let me assure the CSOs that the door for dialogue between government and the businessman is still open. We have not completely shut the door on the project,” said minister Msukwa
Wadi & Associates, lawyers for the project who are specialist Attorneys in Construction Contracts and Land Law confirmed that negotiations took very long to ensure compliance with all legal requirements as well as standards and specifications of the buildings. The Attorneys also mentioned that the “construction in exchange of land project” involved an aspect of public disposal and Section 38(2) (c) of Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Act was duly complied.
Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) chairperson Gift Trapence said the best way government can deal with land issues is through a fair and comprehensive land audit.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :