Deadline for the completion of upgrading of the Kamuzu Barrage in Liwonde, Machinga will be extended from November 2017 to mid-2018, raising fears of financing as project funding closes on January 31 2018, The Nation has learnt.
The World Bank approved $136.30 million (about K99.4 billion) with $50 million (about K36.5 billion) to upgrade the barrage and, according to information on World Bank website, the project closes on January 31 2018.
However, with 24 months elapsed and 12 months to go, only half of the project has been completed with seven of the 14 bridge panels constructed and seven gates of the barrage installed. An office and control rooms for the barrage have also been completed while construction works at the weed boom area have started and preparation for second phase is in progress.
The World Bank bankrolled the K37.5 billion rehabilitation project of the barrage estimating that it would run for about 36 months. However, construction company, Conduril Engenharia, delayed the mobilisation of equipment to the site.
Malawi Government is yet to inform the financiers of the project, the World Bank, of the impending extension which would have monetary implications on the project.
In an interview, Kamuzu Barrage Technical Team member Toney Nyasulu confirmed of the barrage missing the expected completion period of November 2017.
He said: “Sometimes you award the contracts when people are not ready. The major challenge was for them to mobilise equipment to come to Malawi. Most of the equipment which is there we cannot get it locally.
“There was a three to five months delay when they were waiting for equipment and get mobilised. That delay has carried us along, otherwise, since they started work, they are on schedule, but we are not yet able to recover the delayed time. That is why we are talking about 2018.”
However, Nyasulu could not explain who was to bear the financing of the said extended time as the project is officially set to close in January 2017.
He said: “These, being contractual issues, there should be consequences and that there were clauses in the agreement about the implications of the delays. The World Bank has standards and whosoever caused the delays, there are consequences.”
World Bank communications officer Zeria Banda said while delays in any project are not desirable, they are common for complex infrastructure projects such as the Kamuzu Barrage and they do not necessarily mean a project is failing.
In an e-mailed response, she said: “Our understanding is that the contractor was slow to mobilise after the contract was awarded. Mobilisation involves a number of activities, including availing equipment on site.
“Much as there are delays at the Kamuzu Barrage, there is good progress and we are working with government on mitigation measures to ensure project results are well achieved as this is a crucial investment for Malawi’s economy.”
Banda, however, said the World Bank could only extend a project closing date upon request by the government, adding: “For this project, the Bank has not yet received such a request.”
She further said the World Bank will evaluate the merits and financial implications of an extended project period once they receive a formal government request for such an extension.
Added Banda: “That said, we believe the project still has room, within the existing funding envelop, to absorb any cost increases resulting from delays.”
Ministry of Finance spokesperson Nations Msowoya downplayed the cost implications, saying there would be no cost implication since this is just an extension of time because of delayed start of the project.
He said: “This is a situation that requires the government to work with the World Bank to extend the loan closing date to allow the government time to use the loan proceeds to pay for the contractors’ expenses.
“The implications of the late mobilisation are manifested in the extension of the closing date for the loan that is currently under discussion between the government and the World Bank.”
Kamuzu Barrage, the multipurpose structure that regulates flow of Shire River and acts like a bridge, is part of the Adaptable Programme Loan for Shire River Basin Management Programme Project to develop the Shire River Basin planning framework to improve land and water management for ecosystem and livelihood benefits in targeted areas. n