The Budget and Finance Committee of Parliament is worried that construction of the multibillion Zomba-Jali-Kamwendo-Phalombe-
The road is of huge economic importance as it would provide the short-cut for connecting from Zomba to Phalombe and Mulanje instead of the current scenario where people travel to Phalombe or Mulanje through Blantyre.
The road project, which was initially expected to cost only $57.09 million (about K19.98 billion) is now costing $107 million (about K37.45 billion) because of suspension of works on the road in the 2011/12 financial year.
If the contractor abandons the project again, government risks spending more billions of kwacha.
In an interview on Monday, newly-elected chairperson of the Budget and Finance Committee of Parliament Francis Kasaila confirmed the contractor’s threats to abandon the project.
“We got a report from the contractor during our visit of the project last Wednesday that he has written the Roads Authority, saying if he is not paid for the previous works on the road, he is going to withdraw his services.
“There are some certificates which government is supposed to pay the contractor. The understanding is that the contractor was supposed to be paid for the certificates before work on the project was suspended in 2011/12,” said Kasaila.
He said the certificates are documents the contractor issues to government asking for payment for the work done on the project to, among others, allow him to access funds to continue with other works.
Kasaila said his committee wants to meet ministers of Finance and Transport on government’s failure to pay for the outstanding certificates from the contractor.
He said when construction of the road was suspended in 2011/12, only 75 percent of the work had been done, but some sections of the part which were completed were damaged by rains after the suspension.
In an interview on Thursday, principal secretary for Ministry of Transport and Public Works Moffat Chitimbe also confirmed threats from the contractor to abandon construction works on the project.
“We think the contractor and his action are so premature because the certificate that he is talking about has not yet reached the time when it is due for payment. We are still discussing with him,” said Chitimbe.
He said the ministry has invited the contractor to a meeting next week to discuss the matter.
In an interview, the construction company’s engineer Mabvuto Mhango refused to comment on the matter, saying they were not mandated to talk to the press and referred Weekend Nation to the Roads Authority (RA).
In an emailed response, RA spokesperson Portia Kajanga on Friday said the contractor wishes to suspend and not abandon works, saying the issue at hand is the time from the contractor’s submission of a payment certificate (invoice) to the day payment is made and appropriate action to take if not paid, as stipulated in the contract.
“The Roads Authority and all parties responsible for making payments are working within the contractual provisions so that the project should progress smoothly. Finances for the project are available from the Malawi Government as well as from the other external financiers.
“The Roads Authority is not delaying anything. The government has already paid the contractor for previously certified works. Paying of previously certified works and claims was in fact one of the conditions for the contractor to resume works,” said Kajanga.
She said the current outstanding payment is $5 068 672 .39 (about K1.77 billion).
He also said all previous claims from the contractor were paid, saying the only certificate outstanding is a current certificate which is not yet overdue.