Simbi Phiri, chairman of Khato Civils, has said he was becoming worried with some Malawi government officials, including Finance minister Goodall Gondwe, who has not signed the K400 billion loan contract that is frustrating a multimillion dollar project to pipe water from Lake Malawi to Lilongwe, the capital city.
Khato Civils was awarded a K400 billion Lilongwe-Salima water project that will pump over 50 million litres of water a day from Lake Malawi to Lilongwe.
But in a local newspaper interview, Simbi expresses frustration with government’s delays to sign a loan contract, casting doubt on the prospects that the project might be implemented any time soon.
Khato boss also argues he is becoming suspicious of the manner in which government officials are behaving on the deal.
“Today the Finance minister would say IMF [International Monetary Fund] is yet to give a response, tomorrow he would talk of World Bank, I am really fed up. In fact, the [South African-based] financiers have also warned to pull out.
“If that is to happen, it means the Malawi government will have to look for other financiers to fund the project,” Simbi Phiri said, according to quotes reported by Nation On Sunday.
The newspaper reports that government has not yet signed the contract as they seek approval from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, according to what Minister of FinanceGondwe said.
But Simbi Phiri said there has been some suspicious movements by government officials including Gondwe, saying government gurus brought to him officials of the Israel-based firm at his farm in Mchinji in the middle of a night soon after Khato Civils won the contract in 2016, but he turned them down.
“All this bickering— issues being raised that we don’t have capacity— emanates from these officials’ failure to convince me do something impossible. I am fed up and we cannot go on like this.
“And these are top people, doing things this way, and I have resisted from day one that I cannot accept any company to be imposed on me, unless I am saying I don’t have capacity,” Phiri said.
The paper quoted Simbi saying the reason that was being put forward earlier on the need of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was simply an excuse “because every professional in this field would know that you cannot come up with an EIA report before designs are made or the route [of the project] is identified”.
But Gondwe said the IMF and World Bank agreed with the Malawi government, as part of loan cancellation deal, that before the Malawi government signs any loan contract, the two institutions must know.
“We notified them of our intention, but they have not given us a nod yet. We will only sign when we hear from them,” Gondwe said as quoted by the paper.
Sinbi Phiri said he explained to international community representatives who Khato Civils are and how the contract was won.
An estimated 4 000 jobs will be created in the duration of the project. Most of the employment opportunities will be in auxiliary services to complement the core personnel of Khato Civils.
There will be a lot of quarrying, and the project will need heavy machine operators, drivers, engineers, welders and those who will be involved in rebar and mortar construction.
The project entails a steel pipeline that stretches over 130 km and will have three big pump stations to ensure that there are no bottlenecks in the flow of water to the capital. It also features a water treatment plant and three reservoirs in Lilongwe.
Khato Civils has invested in two cutting-edge Tesmec Trenchers able to dig 2km per day of trenches for laying pipes. Each of the Tesmec Trenchers is worth about $2-million (R26-million) each.
“We are excited about the project and will deliver the best value to the people of Malawi. We continue to make sure as a company that we invest in the best equipment, latest technology and innovation to deliver the best quality projects in an environmentally sustainable manner.”
Phiri explained that the project would improve the lives of millions of people, not only in Malawi but the whole region. He said such a massive infrastructural project would open up investment opportunities.
“All aspects of our lives are dependent on water. As we have done in other countries in which we operate across the Southern Africa region we are creating conditions for millions of people to have adequate drinking water and good sanitation which are important elements to human life,” Phiri said.
He sees the project as a springboard for transformation in a country, which like many developing countries faces serious challenges in terms of coping with chronic water shortages and the inadequacies of their existing water infrastructure.
Phiri claimed detractors of the project have used everything to achieve their ill motives, including reporting Khato Civils to the Anti-Corruption Bureau (AC).
“There is absolutely nothing for ACB to investigate us. This complaint to ACB was deposited on May 7 2017, and ACB has not even contacted us about this, apparently they knew it had no basis.
“But after a draft EIA report came out recently and confirmed the project is viable, few days later, we hear about the ACB issue. Some people are working very hard to stop this projec,” Phiri saidas quoted by Nation on Sunday.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :