Machinga South constituency member of Parliament (MP) Grant Ndecha was on Thursday at pains to explain to his constituents how he will raise money to re-construct a K9.9 million bridge which collapsed last month before it was even commissioned.
The 11-metre single span concrete deck bridge at Lingoni River in Traditional Authority Chamba in the district was built with Constituency Development Fund (CDF).
During a meeting on Thursday between the MP and the communities, facilitated by Centre for Social Accountability Transparency (Csat), Ndecha indicated that the contractor, George Daudi, committed to re-do the works.
According to the villagers, Daudi, who was not present during the meeting, had informed them earlier that he currently does not have money to work on the project again.
The MP, however, pledged to personally take up the task for the project to materialise although the people kept pressing how he would source the funds.
Some Area Development Committee (ADC) members claimed the contractor was hand-picked for the job a claim director of public works (DPW) at Machinga District Council, Daniel Ulemu Sambakunsi, disputed, pointing out that he was identified by the council’s procurement committee in consultation with the MP.
ADC members also claimed the contractor single-handedly bought all the project’s materials and no committee was instituted to oversee the project as is normally the case.
ADC chairperson Afick Iringa acknowledged that he signed for the payments that were made to the contractor, saying he was doing a job that was assigned to him by the MP.
But according to the DPW, the single-span bridge was only monitored during the key stages of construction due to limited funds.
The contractor claimed in an interview that he used 245 bags of cement on the project, translating to K1.9 million at K10 000 per 50 bag. But he said he did not have supporting documents.
Daudi also admitted in an earlier interview that he did not sign a contract with the council, but was approached to do the job because of his expertise in bridge construction in the area.
When asked why the bridge did not have reinforcements to hold the structure, Daudi said he had previously constructed bridges of similar designs and did not have problems.
The DPW, who is also an engineer, observed that the K9.9 million spent on the bridge was way below the amount required to construct a concrete bridge of such a type and estimated such a bridge would cost between K35 million to K40 million.
Said Sambakunsi: “The contractor was indeed paid at all the three stages of construction, but as council, we will do our investigations to establish what led to the collapse of the bridge.”
The MP in an interview claimed the issue was being politicised to discredit him.
But T/A Chamba described the collapse of the bridge as a huge embarrassment to his area.
Centre for Social Accountability Transparency (Csat) executive director Willy Kambwandira, whose organisation was tipped about the incident through a whistle-blower initiative, said the issue is just a tip of the iceberg of gross violations of CDF guidelines.
Kambwandira pointed out that it is high time CDF guidelines provided clear sanctions for violations, adding that the matter has already been taken to the Anti-Corruption Bureau and the Office of the Ombudsman.