Rising debts and acute shortage of workers are crippling the multi-billion kwacha Bingu National Stadium (BNS), which was designed to be a sports asset, but is slowly turning into a liability.
Currently, the facility owes companies aboutK100 million in unpaid services and good deals dating back to 2017. Some firms have been threatening to take legal action only to be restrained by the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs..
The owed firms we have established are Escom (K28 million), Omega Security Services (K34.3 million), Mchepa Landscapers (K16.3 million), Kaunda Landscapers (K13 million), Oasis Furniture (K3.6 million) and Commercial World (K2.5 million).
In an interview, Omega Security Services area manager Starzio Dziko confirmed the debts, saying they were contracted in 2017, but have not been paid any penny.
He said: “We started providing security here three years ago. Government has been giving different excuses to justify the delay. It’s unfortunate that we are being treated like this.”
Dziko said last year they engaged lawyers to take legal action, but the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture derailed them after promising to honour the payment.
“They brought in lawyers from the Ministry of Justice and we agreed not to take the matter to court following their commitment to pay us in March. But the pledge was not fulfilled and we are strategising on the next course of action,” he said.
The K28 million Escom bill means that the government can not have power at the stadium for long periods.
“We have several apartments that can generate millions by being rented out as offices and shops. However, the erratic water and electricity supply puts off potential clients,” said a worker.
On the labour front, the stadium was supposed to have around 60 workers, according to documents of proposed vacancies which we have seen, but instead it also has seven workers.
The consequences of this are grave as a Weekend Nation visit to the Lilongwe-based facility found that the two pitches are completely dry and bushy.
“We can’t attend to the pitches because we rarely have water beyond the first week of the month,” said a worker at the facility.
“In an addition to that, there are only about five labourers instead of 30. How can they do all the landscaping, cleaning and pitch management?”
The stadium at some stage had hired Mchepa Landscapers and Kaunda Landscapers to be caring for the surroundings, but both severed ties over government failure to pay accumulated bills.
In the absence of these service providers, looking after the pitch was the responsibility of a horticulturist, but after he quit his post, the office remains vacant.
Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture spokesperson Simon Mbvundula said they are aware of some operational challenges, but asked for more time to respond to the issue.