Maternity wing project at Karonga health centre uncompleted 3 years since it started

A maternity wing project at Hara Health Centre in Traditional Authority (TA) Wasambo in Karonga District that started in 2017, is still uncompleted, three years down the line.

Chunga says there was too much political pressure
The unfinished project

It is not known as to when authorities will put resources together to finish the building, whose initial construction cost was K4 million — drawn from Constituency Development Fund (CDF).

Wasambo area development committee chairperson, Happy Ndovie says the project first stalled at window level and efforts to make a follow up yielded nothing as former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Member of Parliament for Karonga South Constituency, Malani Mtonga is reported to have single handedly sourced the contractor, Smart Mwakayira, who also happens to be the DPP’’s deputy regional governor.

According to Ndovie, the project was managed by the former Parliamentarian’s relatives and other politicians who were untouchable by the community then — allegations that Mtonga denies.

However, in 2018 the area development committee received a further K19 million from community managed socio-economic project (COMSEP) fund to complete the maternity wing.

Wasambo’s public expenditure tracking focal team chairperson, Barclea Nyasulu said their investigations established that procurement procedures were not followed since there was no bidding as stipulated in the Public Procurement Act, 2017 as the same contractor was picked by the District Council.

“The Bill of Quantity shows that brick force wire was bought but that was not delivered and it also shows that 335 bags of cement were purchased yet the receipts show 250 bags.

District Council officials never monitored the project despite getting five percent administrative fee and again, the contractor was given additional K500,000 that was not accounted for,” Nyasulu’’s report reads in part.

Village Headman Bonje has demanded the contractor to refund the K500,000 he collected, saying public funds need to be accounted for.

In response, the district’’s acting director of planning and development, Clement Chunga said COMSEP funded projects were highly politicised as people jumped the gun of some guidelines to expedite construction works.

“In essence, the money was supposed to be channeled into the area development committee’’s accounts to enable the project implementation committee to buy building materials.

Community members were also supposed to be trained on how to manage funds and the whole project, but Chunga said only one training was conducted.

Karonga District Council finance committee chairperson, Belliam Msukwa said his committee will leave the issues in the hands of full Council to see if they can use part of the K91 million district development fund to complete the project as one way of reducing maternal deaths in the area.

Just and Peace health governance coordinator Obert Mkandawire, whose institution with funding from OSISA is implementing a health governance project in the district, said it is sad that public officers are failing to make good use of development funds in Councils.

Mkandawire has since appealed to duty bearers to use the five percent they remit from development funds to closely monitor construction works of projects.

The next health centre from the Hara in T/A Wasambo is Lwezga, which is 11km way.

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