People living on the shores of Lake Malawi can forget having a mobile health unit vessel under Chauncy Maples Malawi Trust (CMMT) after the project has been declared a flop.
CMMT announced in a recent press release that the dream project of turning the over 100 years old water vessel into a mobile clinic that would have catered for thousands of geographically marginalised Malawians collapsed due to the rising renovation costs.
The Malawi Government, which invested about K200 million in the project, has since described the development as regrettable, saying government will do anything possible to ensure that people living on the shores of Lake Malawi access quality health care.
CMMT, a United Kingdom registered charity, ventured into the ambitious project about seven years ago and raised funds for the renovation of the steamer to turn it into a primary health care facility on the lake.
“The Chauncy Maples Malawi Trust (CMMT, together with Portuguese construction company, Mota-Engil, regret to announce that their joint project to renovate the 100 year old missionary vessel, Chauncy Maples, to operate as a mobile clinic on Lake Malawi, will not be proceeding,” reads the press release.
CMMT’s 2014 annual report published on the UK Charity Commission website indicates that the Trust had raised a total of £2 046 000 (about K13 billion) for the project since 2009 and had £584768 (about K379.6 million) left in the bank, meaning £1 461 000 had already been spent on the project.
The press release, made available to Weekend Nation by CMMT, quotes the trust’s chairperson Colin Hayton as saying: “We are very grateful to all who supported this imaginative project and we are very disappointed that the renovation will not go ahead.
“However, we remain committed to our charitable object of the relief of sickness and promotion of health among people who live round the shores of Lake Malawi. Subject to complying with the requirements of Charity Law in England we hope to use our remaining funds to support local projects around Lake Malawi to improve health care for inaccessible lakeside villages.”
CMMT administrator David Todd could not take any questions when contacted this week.
“I am afraid we are not in the position to provide any further information,” he said.
But the press release indicated that unforeseen technical problems came to light regarding the integrity of the hull, which meant that the costs of refurbishment would escalate beyond what could be regarded as economically viable, “particularly noting that the object of the charity is delivery of healthcare and the vessel was only to be the means of delivery”.
When Malawi Government subcontracted the operations of Lake Malawi Services to a private company, Mota-Engil, Chauncy Maples was subsequently surrendered to Mota- Engil, which committed itself to work hand in hand with CMMT.
Among other things, Mota Engil offered to pump in $2 million (about K1 billion) into the project.
The CMMT press release quoted Mota-Engil, Africa CEO Gilberto Rodrigues as saying: “We very much regret not being able to complete this project but are convinced that this is the right decision. Mota-Engil remains committed to supporting health care initiatives amongst communities on the shores of Lake Malawi.”
Mota-Engil public relations and media consulting manager Thomas Chafunya refused to comment on the development saying “it would be prudent [for Weekend Nation] to direct [its] questions to CMMT”.
CMMT, in accordance with UK Charity Commission guidelines, launched a Failed Appeal entailing contacting donors of funds designated solely for the renovation of the ship to give the trust authority to redirect the funds.
Oxford Times dated October 1 2015 advised donors of the project to claim back the money.
“Notice is given that money and other property given for this purpose cannot be used for that purpose, because the project is no longer viable due to rising costs and insurmountable engineering and contractual difficulties. If you gave money or other property for that purpose you are entitled to claim it back.
“If you wish to do so you must tell David Todd (the Administrator) of Chauncy Maples Malawi Trust within three months of the date of this publication. If you wish the money or other property to go to a similar charitable purpose (i.e. provision of health care to lakeside communities in Malawi) and to disclaim your right to the return of the money or other property, you must ask the person named above for a form of disclaimer. If you do not either make a claim within the three months or sign a disclaimer, the Charity Commission may make a scheme applying the property to other charitable purposes.
Ministry of Health spokesperson Adrian Chikumbe moaned that the cancellation of the project puts lives of the intended beneficiaries at a disadvantage.
“However, government will do everything possible to ensure that lakeside residents are able to access quality health care services through traditional means [available health facilities],” he said.
The project came under criticism in 2011 after it was revealed that government had, between 2007 and 2010, allocated K200 million towards the renovation of the ship which was at the time in an archaic state. n