Malawi has descended into a prolonged power outages stretching 8 to12 hours daily as flow of water from upper Shire River down to power generation plants has drastically reduced.
Government senior officials have faulted delays by a portuguese contractor Conduril for lack of capacity to deliver the rehabilitation works on the Kamuzu Barrage, which controls the flow of water to the power generation plants on time.
Deadline for the completion of upgrading of the Kamuzu Barrage in Liwonde, Machinga was extended from November 2017 to mid-2018, raising both fears of financing as project funding closes on January 31 2018 and generation of electricity to the country.
The World Bank approved $136.30 million (about K99.4 billion) with $50 million (about K36.5 billion) to upgrade the barrage and, according to information on World Bank website, the project closes on January 31 2018.
However, with 36 months elapsed and 5 months to go, only half of the project has been completed with 8 of the 14 bridge panels constructed and seven gates of the barrage installed.
“This is uncceptable,” government minister told Nyasa Times.
” We need to vet these contractors in terms of capacity. We can’t have a company delaying to mobilize its resources and equipment for half a year and then lead the blackout affecting the nation days end.”
The World Bank bankrolled the K37.5 billion rehabilitation project of the barrage estimating that it would run for about 36 months. However, construction company, Conduril Engenharia, delayed the mobilisation of equipment to the site.
Malawi Government was yet to inform the financiers of the project, the World Bank, of the impending extension which would have monetary implications on the project.
Kamuzu Barrage Technical Team member Toney Nyasulu confirmed to Nyasa Times during a media tour that indeed the barrage would miss the expected completion period of November 2017.
He said: “Sometimes you award the contracts when people are not ready. The major challenge was for them to mobilise equipment to come to Malawi. Most of the equipment which is there we cannot get it locally.
However, Nyasulu could not explain to the local media who was to bear the financing of the said extended time as the project was officially set to close in January 2017.
He told the Nation Newspaper: “These, being contractual issues, there should be consequences and that there were clauses in the agreement about the implications of the delays. The World Bank has standards and whosoever caused the delays, there are consequences.”
World Bank communications officer Zeria Banda said delays in any project are not desirable.
“Our understanding is that the contractor was slow to mobilise after the contract was awarded. Mobilisation involves a number of activities, including availing equipment on site.
“Much as there are delays at the Kamuzu Barrage, there is good progress and we are working with government on mitigation measures to ensure project results are well achieved as this is a crucial investment for Malawi’s economy.”
Banda, however, said the World Bank could only extend a project closing date upon request by the government, adding: “For this project, the Bank has not yet received such a request.”
She further said the World Bank will evaluate the merits and financial implications of an extended project period once they receive a formal government request for such an extension.
Added Banda: “That said, we believe the project still has room, within the existing funding envelop, to absorb any cost increases resulting from delays.”
But the cabinet Minister, our source, said the delays in the project completion and now resulting into complaints by the new company of power generation of low water flow into its turbines, was a major structural issue.
” The cabinet takes the pride in seeing the works completed on time but does have huge reservations on the capacity by the contractor,” he said.
With rains set to begin mid of October as forecast by meteorological experts, experts fear that contractor Conduril will push the cut off deadline furthermore towards 2019 costing the taxpayer billions of kwacha more in payments.
Kamuzu Barrage, the multipurpose structure that regulates flow of Shire River and acts like a bridge. Its usage helps to regulate the flow of water to all major power generation stations.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :