Despite protests from communities against the contractor and bidding price, the Malawi Government says it will today proceed to sign a contract for the Marka-Bangula railway project.
Minister of Transport and Public Works Jacob Hara said in an interview yesterday that the contract signing will go-ahead because the contractor, China Railway 20 Bureau Group Corporation (CR20), was not to blame for the poor works on the road project communities are questioning.
He also faulted protesting communities in Nsanje for their failure to write the ministry on their concerns on the rail project.
The minister said: “We gave the people 14 days to come aboard and provide evidence for their protest. But no one came forward.
“I have visited the road they are talking about, and I only faulted the contractor [CR20] because he went ahead to do things because the consultants had said so, even when they knew that was a bad thing.”
Yesterday, a leaked confidential memo from the ministry on price analysis also warned that the quoted price of K68 billion was on the lower side for the new contractor to provide quality work on the rail project.
According to the revised bid figures we have seen, Mota Engil presented a price of K82 billion, D&M quoted the deal at K70 billion, China Civils at K63 billion while CR20 quoted the deal at K68 billion as the lowest bidder.
In October last year, Mota-Engil who had emerged the winner before the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) stopped the awarding of the contract, had the lowest price at K48 244 861 524.98 against two others CR20 at K59.9 billion and China Civil at K79.7 billing.
The document notes that the redesigned scope of work on the rail project requires more resources, as the rail is now supposed to be constructed to handle a maximum speed of 75 kilometre (km) per hour up from the initial scope of 50 km/hour in 2020.
On axle loading, in 2020, the track infrastructure was supposed to be constructed for an axle load of 15 tonnes, which moved to 20.5 tonnes in the 2022 bid.
Construction and re-construction of bridges also moved to 24 from 14, while earthworks volume also moved up due to increased design requirements of 20.5 tonnes axle loading.
But Hara yesterday insisted that the new valuation of K68.3 billion is enough for the scope of work which has been re-advertised.
Mota-Engil public relations and media manager Thomas Chafunya said they quoted the first price based on scope of work given and prices prevailing in 2020.
He said: “Between 2020 and 2022, cost of steel, fuel and other inputs have risen because of international price movements but also the devaluation of the kwacha against major currencies.
“For example, the price of diesel moved from K 586.00 per litre in 2020 to K1042.00 per litre in 2022 and reinforcing steel moved from K660 000.00 per ton in the first bid round in 2020 to K1 250 000.00 in 2022 representing 80 percent increase.”
Chafunya said the scope of 2020 involved re-use of old rails and sleepers at no cost to contractors while the 2022 scope specifies new rail and concrete sleepers materials to be supplied by contractors.
Last week, President Lazarus Chakwera expressed his frustration of the project delays.
The project was mooted in October 2020 after Chakwera met his Mozambican counterpart Felipe Nyusi and agreed to revive the Sena Corridor to link the two countries by rail. The corridor provides rail connection to the Beira Port in Mozambique for landlocked Malawi.
Mozambique completed its 44-km section from Mutarara to Marka while Malawi is yet to start works on the project.
Procurement processes such as evaluation of bids were completed in December 2020 and in May last year the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to have the rehabilitation works of the railway line completed by March 2022.
Some chiefs in Nsanje faulted the new contractor last month for doing sub-standard work on a previous road project in the district.