Parliamentary Committee on Transport and Public Infrastructure doubts that 10 000 houses for security agencies will be built in five years after learning that just 231 have been completed in two years.
Speaking yesterday in an interview after meeting officials from Ministry of Lands, committee chairperson Uchizi Mkandawire said it was not feasible to meet the deadline given current pace.
He said: “Looking at the time spent this far, they are way behind in terms of progress. We have doubts that they will meet the target because from what they have presented, financing is a big challenge, therefore, the committee has a view that the project will be a flop.
“To some extent, they will be able to implement to a certain percentage, but we have our doubts. We are uncertain that they will do the 10 000 housing units within the stipulated time frame.”
During the meeting, the ministry said 231 houses were completed in two years.
In an interview after the meeting, Ministry of Lands Principal Secretary Reyneck Matemba said they regard the first phase as a learning experience they will use to avert possible emerging challenges.
But he decried delays in processing payment associated with the Integrated Financial Management Information System (Ifmis) between June and October 2021.
Said Matemba: “We have a challenge ahead of us based on the remaining time frame for the five-year period that we were given to construct the 10 000 houses, but we remain optimistic.
“We don’t work in isolation, but in collaboration with other ministries, departments and agencies. We have isolated funding challenges as our biggest headache due to government payment system challenges, but now we are told the challenges have been resolved.”
He said in the 2022/23 National Budget, the housing units project has been allocated K3 billion, but was quick to say allocations may sometimes not tally with what is disbursed in a financial year.
Other challenges Matemba cited included lengthy procurement procedures, poor workmanship and slow pace by some contractors.
He further mentioned erratic site supervision since the start of 2021/22 financial year due to delayed funding and land encroachment as other challenges.
Matemba said the ministry is pushing to reduce procurement period on some lots and engaging Treasury for timely funding disbursement.
The project is expected to benefit officers in Malawi Police Service, Malawi Defence Force, Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services and Malawi Prisons Service most of whom live in rented or dilapidated institutional houses.
From the 10 000 houses, MDF and police were allocated 4 000 each while the prison Service and Immigration will have 1 000 each.
A breakdown sample of the project’s success through the ministry’s presentation showed that police have 25 houses at Ipyana and Songwe in Karonga at 60 percent completition while 10 houses at Jenda in Mzimba were at 48 percent completion.
In Area 45, Lilongwe, Immigration has 51 houses at 50 percent completion level.
On the remaining 769 houses in the same phase one, Matemba said the works will be done by 31 contractors out of which 26 have already been identified with 17 of them having sites handed to them.
Treasury said government successfully issued a development bond which raised K21 billion for the project.
President Lazarus Chakwera launched the the project on December 16 2020 in Karonga District.