The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has accepted the Ministry of Transport and Public Works’ proposal to retender the Marka-Bangula railway project, but has cautioned the ministry to preserve the integrity of the procurement process.
In a letter dated December 22 2021 addressed to Ministry of Transport and Public Works Principal Secretary Hastings Chiudzu, the ACB stressed its earlier position that the evaluation committee should be replaced because its initial decision was questionable as it departed from the law.
ACB director general Martha Chizuma said on Thursday that while the graft-busting agency agreed with the proposal for retendering of the contract, their earlier position on the evaluation committee still stood.
She also said investigations into the awarding the contract were also on-going on some alleged corrupt elements identified in relation to the evaluation process.
Said Chizuma: “There are some corrupt elements from the investigation and other issues observed after our 3rd December report that are undergoing final stages of investigation. Soon or later, the bureau will make its position known on the same.”
In a statement released on December 3 2021, the ACB faulted the evaluation process of this tender, and recommended that the ministry should re-evaluate three successful bidders within 15 days using a new evaluation committee.
Mota-Engil emerged the successful bidder in the nullified tender after offering the lowest price of K48 244 861 524.98 against China Railway which offered K59 906 673 465.11 and China Civil Engineering which quoted K79 766 540 032.76.
ACB also faulted both the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA) and Ministry of Transport and Public Works for the manner the contract was awarded.
PPDA, which regulates public procurement, was faulted for granting a no objection to award the contract after the expiry of the bid validity period which is against its own regulations.
Minister of Transport and Public Works Jacob Hara on Wednesday admitted that the ministry breached the law by proceeding to award the contract and that their option to retender is meant to correct things by following the law.
Since the recommendation to re-evaluate bids came from the ACB, the ministry was duty bound to report back to ACB to have them modify its recommendations in line with Section 10 (4) of the Corrupt Practices Act.
While approving the proposal to retender, the graft-busting body has asked the ministry to ensure that, within the law, it uses an expeditious tendering method “in view of the importance of the project to the economy” and also considering the project has suffered serious delays.
Malawi and Mozambique, in May this year, signed a memorandum of understanding to have the project completed by March 2022. Malawi is yet to start the works for its first 72-kilometre stretch from Marka to Bangula while Mozambique is almost done on its stretch to Marka.
Hara, who conceded that Malawi was unlikely to meet the deadline, said they opted for a restricted tender, limited to only those bidders who participated in this tender, to speed up the process. He said it is expected that the tender to be awarded during the first quarter of next year.
Meanwhile, a group that calls itself Centre for Mindset Change led by Phillip Kamangira has written to the Ministry of Transport and Public Works threatening to drag it to court over its decision to re tender.
According to the project feasibility study report released in 2015, Beira and Nacala handle over 90 percent of Malawi’s trade. The Sena line connecting to Beira was closed in the 1980s following the civil war in Mozambique.