Ministry of Transport and Public Works has resolved to readvertise the tender for the project to construct Marka-Bangula railway line following advice from the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA).
In a letter dated December 15 2021 signed by director general Edington Chilapondwa, PPDA argued that the ministry could not re-evaluate the tender as advised by the Anti- Corruption Bureau (ACB) because the bid validity period has expired.
Reads the letter in part: “The authority advises that extension of bid validity peritod can only be conducted prior to the expiry of bid validity period. Therefore, since the validity period in the present procurement has expired, the bids cannot be revalidated. Please be guided accordingly.”
In an interview on Wednesday, Minister of Transport and Public Works Jacob Hara conceded that the ministry earlier erred after publishing notification of intention to award Mota-Engil a K48 billion contract for the upgrading and rehabilitation of the 72-kilometre Marka-Bangula railway line after the expiry of the bid validity period.
He said moving forward, the ministry has opted to restricted tendering to correct the wrong and also move with speed.
Said Hara: “What I have seen is that I think we have been breaking the law all the time and that was incorrect. I thought that the best way to correct these things is not by repeating the mistakes. We want to follow the law and from now onwards we will make sure that we do everything within the bid validity period.”
Following investigations after a complaint alleging fraud and corruption in the process of awarding the initial contract, ACB faulted the manner in which the evaluation process was done and asked the ministry to re-evaluate three top bidders within 15 days.
Reads the statement: “Having in mind the importance of this project to Malawi economy and that this project is a bilateral arrangement between Malawi and Mozambique and that Mozambique has almost finalised their side while Malawi has done nothing, the process of re-evaluation should be done within the next 15 days and proceed with the rest of the procurement processes according to the law.”
The Corrupt Practices Act requires that if the procuring entity does not take on board the recommendation from ACB, they provide a report on the same.
In a written response on Wednesday ACB director general Martha Chizuma confirmed receiving a report from the Ministry of Transport and Public Works on why they had not adopted the recommendation.
But in its letter to the Ministry of Transport and Public Works dated December 17 2021, one of the bidders, China Railways, said it found the PPDA position hypocritical considering that the government has previously awarded contracts to bidders after the expiry of bid validity period.
The bid validity period was 120 days from November last year, meaning it expired by March.
In May this year, Malawi and Mozambique signed a memorandum of understanding to complete the project by March 2022.
While Malawi is yet to start the works on its 72–kilometre stretch from Marka to Bangula, Mozambique is reportedly nearing completion of its stretch to Marka.
In September this year, ACB issued a restriction notice, stopping the Ministry of Transport from dealing with this contract following a complaint.
The reconstruction of the stretch from Marka to Bangula follows discussions between President Lazarus Chakwera and his Mozambican counterpart Felipe Nyusi in October last year to revamp the Sena line which is crucial for Malawi’s economic growth.
According to the project feasibility study released in 2015, Beira and Nacala handle over 90 percent of Malawi’s trade.
The Sena line was closed in the 1980s following a civil war in Mozambique.