Mediocrity forces Zomba-Mulanje road to take 9 years to complete

Poor performance on the part of the consultant engaged by Malawi Government and squabbles have forced construction of the 102km Zomba-Jali-Phalombe-Chitakale road to take eight years, Nyasa Times understands.

Construction works of the road commenced on 15th November, 2005 and was scheduled for completion over a period of 30 months (15th May 2008).

However, the road is yet to be completed eight years down the line and government now says the remaining works will take the next 21 months, meaning it will finish by 30 June 2014.

The contract for construction works was awarded to a Kuwait construction firm called M AKharafi at an amount of $57,093,385.05 and the works were supervised by another Kuwait company UNETEC Limited.

One of the road works: Part of the Blantyre-Zomba Road under reconstruction at Namadzi Bridge
One of the road works: Part of the Blantyre-Zomba Road under reconstruction at Namadzi Bridge

The road is being financed with loans from three donor agencies which are Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA), OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID), Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (Kuwait Fund) and the Malawi Government.

But a document from the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) in possession of Nyasa Times indicates that serious problems started arising when the consultant, UNETEC Limited, failed to thoroughly complete the detailed design works to come up with the project cost estimation to enable government apply for additional financing from the donor agencies to cover for the shortfall that existed.

“Coupled with misunderstandings between the contractor and the consultant, together with the generally poor performance of UNETEC Limited on the management of the contract, the project stalled in January 2009 after achieving 75 percent completion.

“It should be noted that substantial work has already been done on the road including all bridges, culverts and road subbase. The poor performance of UNETEC Limited, led to the termination of the Consulting Agreement in May 2010,” says OPC in the document.

It says government through the Roads Authority assessed the value of the remaining works including finalization of the design documentation before the Ministry of Transport and Public Works invited representatives of the donor agencies for round table discussions.

“A meeting with representatives of the co-financing agencies took place in Lilongwe between 2ndand 3rd August 2010 where the co-financing agencies agreed to provide supplementary funding to complete the project,” it says.

About US44 million has been agreed as supplementary financing for the project and was already ratified by Parliament and have become effective for disbursements.

Meanwhile, government has paid all outstanding commitments in favour of the contractor (M AKharafi) who has also re-mobilised to the site and construction works to complete the road are underway.

The road has enormous economic importance to Malawians as Mulanje District is known for growing fresh fruits such as bananas and pineapples, among other crops.

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