An assessment report from government’s Building Department has recommended demolition, construction of new structure or periodic maintenance of the K6 billion Malawi Embassy building in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, because the cracks that developed might re-appear after maintenance.
In the current budget, Treasury allocated K180 million for repairing the cracks on the building that was opened in 2010. The allocation attracted questions from the Parliamentary Committee on International Relations.
According to an assessment report from the Ministry of Transport and Public Works’ Building Department Nation on Sunday has seen, the chancery should either be demolished and have a new one constructed or government should invest in periodic maintenance works. The report says maintained cracks are bound to reappear due to poor designing works of the foundation in relation to the type of soil in the area.
While the report suggests demolition as a cost-effective and sustainable remedy, government has opted for remedial works.
The assessment report puts the cost of remedial works at around $132 000 (roughly about K95 million), but government in the current National Budget has allocated K180 million for maintenance costs.
Asked why there is almost 100 percent rise in the figure, Minister of Transport and Public Works Jappie Mhango said the report was prepared last year; hence the figure has been raised due to price escalation.
He also said part of the funds will be used for logistics for the teams that will be supervising the works from Malawi.
The report said the cracks might resurface even after maintenance because “the swell-shrink effects of the black cotton soil will be there during the service life of the building”.
“It is impossible to predict as to when these cracks may resurface after maintenance, but periodic maintenance will prove to be costly in the long run,” says one of the recommendations in the report.
But Mhango insisted that government’s position is that the building should be maintained.
He could not explain why government allowed shoddy works on the building. When contacted for a comment, both the Ethiopian consultant Sileshi and the contractor refused to grant us an interview.
But our findings indicate that the contractual agreement between government and the contractor only allowed for a year-long contract-defect-liability period—meaning after the expiry of this period government is now fully responsible to maintain the building.
Commenting on the development, Malawi Institute of Engineers (MIE) president Wilson Chirwa said the whole issue hinges on government’s negligence, arguing that ideally government should have engaged a Malawian consultant to work alongside the Ethiopian consultant and contractor.
“I am not sure how they procured the consultancy services—but what happens is that when you are doing some work abroad—a consultant in Malawi is identified to work closely with the consultant in the other country,” said Chirwa.
Another construction expert, Washington Chimuzu, also said demolishing the structure is a more viable option as remedial works will not just cost the country more money, but also put lives at risk.
Construction Sector Transparency Initiative (Cost) country coordinator Lyford Gideon said there was need for government to be transparent in handling such projects.
Chairperson for the Parliamentary Committee on International Relations Alex Major has asked the Anti-Corruption Bureau to investigate the matter, claiming that the whole situation hinges on corruption.
He said it is disheartening to have taxpayers paying some more simply because government failed to do what is right.