As people of Rumphi and Chitipa struggle to travel through the Rumphi-Nyika-Nthalire-Chitipa Road which is in poor state, government has terminated a K5.1 billion contract with contractor Mota Engil to build the road.
Roads Authority chief executive officer Engineer Emmanuel Matapa was on Saturday at pains to explain why the contract was terminated when community leaders, including Paramount Chief Chikulamayembe, demanded an explanation on the delay to complete the work.
He was speaking during Deputy Minister of Transport Nancy Chaola Mdooko’s tour of the road to appreciate challenges that people face and the need to expedite construction.
Since the first phase of the road’s construction, covering 20 kilometres, was launched by former president Peter Mutharika in 2018, only six kilometres was partly constructed with Mota Engil attributing the development to Capital Hill’s failure to provide the contractor with resources.
Said Matapa: “The project went into some contractual disputes, so it has resulted in termination of that 20-kilometre contract. There were a number of issues, like delayed payments, rainfall. So, we thought it wise that amicably we close the contract.
“The money we use is budgeted, we pay for the activities that somebody has done. The contracts we go into are what are called ad-measurements contracts, we only pay for what has been executed. The rest of the money will be transferred to other activities within the road sector.”
He could, however, not provide details on how much they have paid the contractor since 2018, insisting he needed to check the figures.
Matapa added: “Unless I go through the books, otherwise I will be giving wrong figures. I don’t have figures now, but it’s a small percentage. We have seen the stretch constructed was only about six kilometres.”
The proposed maintenance works, according to a project document we have seen, will include grading the entire road, concrete works and masonry works.
“To shorten the procurement process, and also to make sure that the woks are carried out within the shorted period possible, the proposal is to engage the two contractors already working in the Northern Region.
“They are Zhenjing Communications Construction Company Ltd that are upgrading the Mzimba-Mzarangwe road project and China Railway No.5 currently upgrading the Jenda-Edingeni road project. Works will commence once confirmation of funding is received from Treasury.”
Asked why they already have preferences when selecting companies, Matapa argued that they always use open tendering, indicating that they will open up for tendering.
When contacted yetsreday, Mota Engil spokesperson Thomas Chafunya declined to comment on the matter.
But Mdooko said the road remains one of government’s priorities.
She said: “We will soon start constructing the road. Currently, government has identified some resources to do the grading and graveling mostly in the difficult parts.
“Let me assure the people of Nthalire, Rumphi and Nyika that the Tonse government is a listening one and in six months time, the main project will start. But for the grading, it will start very shortly.”
Meanwhile, Paramount Chief Chikulamayembe has urged government to walk the talk.
“We are tired of promises that do not materialise, this time, please let government be truthful. There should be less talking, and more action,” he said.
The road passes through Nyika National Park, which has one of the most beautiful and rare landscapes and wildlife.
As such, the road will provide easy mobility and accessibility to the park to both local and international tourists. It will also ease transportation of people and agricultural produce and other goods in the area and also provide a link to access other markets in the North, Centre and South of Malawi. n