What? You must be joking! This is how many Malawians reacted to a notice that Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) Limited will pay K675 million to bring down Escom House in Blantyre.
Through various social media platforms, engineers and ordinary Malawians alike gave mixed reactions with some raising eyebrows, suggesting the cost could have been less.
But in an interview yesterday, Escom board chairperson Thom Mpinganjira justified the cost, saying the exercise will require the contractor, Irrigwater and Mining Equipment, ferrying in equipment from South Africa. Besides, he said there was no local expertise to demolish the building which was destroyed by fire in October 2013.
He said: “The building will be demolished without affecting any structure and utilities.”
The Escom House demolition issue is not without controversy as it took a twist when a document purported to be part of the tendering process went into circulation and indicated that some bidders offered to undertake the assignment at less than K675 million.
But Mpinganjira said the document in circulation was for an old bid that was cancelled.
A brief report on the demolition of Escom House The Nation saw indicated that the international competitive tender bid for the contract was issued on July 26 2018 and closed on September 28 the same year. There were five companies that submitted their bids.
The companies were Roja Construction which offered to demolish the building at K84.9 million, TOF Investment asked for K598.7 million, 6B Engineering Limited requested for K842.5 million, OG Construction bid K600.5 million and Irrigwater and Mining Equipment bid to demolish the house at K675 million.
Mpinganjira said the minimum score under technical was 80 percent and the bidders were required to demonstrate expertise in demolition of similar structures, environmental aspects and safety.
The report shows that Roja Construction scored 36.3 percent on technical aspect, TOF Investment scored 62.2 percent, 6B Engineering Limited had a score of 55.8 percent, OG Construction scored 64.1 percent and Irrigwater and Mining Equipment scored 81.6 percent.
“This means only Irrigwater passed the technical evaluation,” reads the report which further indicated that Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA) granted the ‘no objection’ on April 8 2019.
The PPDA letter of ‘no objection’ signed by Patrick Nkunika reads: “Kindly be advised that according to information made available to the authority, ‘no objection’ has been granted for the award a works contract to Irrigwater and Mining for the demolition of the fire gutted Escom House in the city of Blantyre at the sum of K675 million.”
Writing on his Facebook page, academic and analyst Henry Chingaipe observed that the contracted amount was on the higher side for the exercise.
Malawi Institution of Engineers (MIE) president Wilson Chirwa, in a telephone interview yesterday, said he does not see any problem with the choice if the technical scoring was fairly done.
“Since there were three companies whose price was around K600 million, what would qualify them is the technical score. In that case, expertise and experience in similar works matters very much,” he said.
One engineer opined that the cost for such works is based on the scope of work, methodology and equipment to be deployed, especially in case of multi-storey structures such as Escom House.
Despite the efforts to demolish the building, Escom was yet to submit to Blantyre City Council (BCC) plans for the building to replace the gutted house, according to BCC chief executive officer Alfred Chanza.