South Africa-based Khato Holdings Limited, contractor in the $500 million Lake Malawi water project, has defended the cost and timeline of the project following criticism from some sections of society.
The company, through a joint venture of Khato Civils (Pty) Limited and Zambezi (Pty), was contracted by Lilongwe Water Board (LWB) and Malawi Government to install the water pipeline project following a closed tender process involving over six companies and a successful business pitch at the Malawi Investment Forum (MIF).
However, critics, including Kenneth Wiyo, an associate professor at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar) who is also a certified registered engineer with over 22 years of experience, have cast doubts on the project implementation.
Writing for The Nation recently in an Oped, Wiyo bemoaned the lack of hydrographic study on the changing water levels in Lake Malawi and raised questions on power supply needed to pump the water.
He also argued that crude power estimates were ranging between 68 megawatts (MW) to 128 MW in a country where Eletricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) is failing to generate 300MW putting to question on the power of energy and Escom rationale and blackouts.
However, Phiri speaking in an interview from Johannesburg, dismissed the assertions as baseless and unfounded, saying all the information the engineer says was missing is cited in the bidding documents of the project.
The engineering and construction mogul further challenged that those questioning the fairness of the bid awarding process can call for an audit of the process.
Said Phiri: “We are very much aware of the scope that the project is going to take. Firstly, while others may seem to argue with us on the cost of the project, what we can say is that not all the R500 million will be coming to us as Khato. We are professional at what we do and we guarantee that our works just as you have seen here have standards.
“Before we even started implementing the project, we had already met some Electricity Corporation of Malawi officials on the power challenges that Malawi is facing. To this end we resolved to use other alternative energy sources which include solar, wind and diesel up to the period when the company is able supply secure power to the grid.
“We have a lot of technologies coming from Europe on solar battery tech and we will ensure that this is done in time.”
Wiyo had further argued that Environmental Affairs did not do the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) study for a water project of this size which is a requirement as per the Environmental Management Act.
In a separate interview, Khato Civils chief executive officer Mongezi Mnyani said that while electricity can be a source of concern, Malawians should always remember that the priority is the water project.
Mnyani added that works on the ground have already started with over 100 million rand invested so far and 25 construction workers deployed on the site. n