School projects stall after aid freeze

While the Malawi government continues to play down the fact that it its broke, Nyasa Times investigations can reveal that some World Bank and Department for International Development (DFID) funded projects have stalled for the past 3 months due to non payment of funds to consultants and contractors by the treasury following aid freeze.

According to Nyasa Times investigations, the construction of school blocks funded by the World Bank and DFID through the Ministry of Education is going at a snail’s pace because money which was meant for the projects has been channelled elsewhere by the treasury.

A source told Nyasa Timesthat as of last month most consultants and contractors had not conducted meetings in various sites due to government’s failure to pay them.

School construction stalls

“Some companies are now laying off staff because the future of the projects is bleak. Some used their own money to start off while waiting for the funds but up to now there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. Our company is owed close to K50 million and we are failing to finish construction of some school blocks in the central region,” he said.

He said the World Bank/DFID funded the construction of school blocks in Lilongwe but only one school in Chiwamba area called Balang’ombe has been completed.

Another four schools were chosen out of 30 namely Chiputula in Mzuzu, Hara in Karonga, Waliranji in Mchinji and Balang’ombe in Lilongwe. Only Balang’ombe was completed and handed over while the rest including some schools approved in 2010 and 2011 lay in ruins.

The source also blamed the new system of getting payment which is deemed long by consultants and contractors which in the end is derailing the projects.

Previously, the system was that consultants were sending claims to DFID and payments were made straight to the contractors but now it starts from the quantity surveyors then to the architects who certify and then send to the Education Implementation Management Unit (EIMU).

From EIMU, the processes go to Ministry and then to the treasury who fund Ministry of Education and back to EIMU before contractors are paid.

“This process is just too long and is not helping matters at all but the bottom line is that government is broke and projects which are well funded by World Bank and DFID are suffering” he said.

Efforts to talk to DFID officials and the treasury proved futile.

Meanwhile, London-based Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU)   has urged President Bingu wa Mutharika to mend fences with donors to ensure aid  starts flowing again to Malawi   and avert the poor’s suffering.

The report says the tight fiscal stance in the 2011/12 financial year in reaction to declining donor support will hurt the country’s poor as government cuts back on spending on essential services.

“Malawi will face substantial policy uncertainty over the forecast period. Fiscal policy will be tightened as aid on which Malawi depends heavily falls,” says EIU s in its July country report.

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