Parliamentary Committee on International Relations, Defence and Security Cluster on Monday took to task Ministry of Homeland Security officials over delays surrounding the construction of Blantyre Police Station office complex.
During the meeting held in Lilongwe, it transpired that government has so far spent K750 million on the three-year project whose progress, the committee members said, “leaves a lot to be desired”.
Of the K750 million, K400 million was paid out to City Building Contractors Limited in February this year as a first disbursement while K350 was allocated in the K511 billion four-months Provisional Budget, set to expire on October 31 this year.
In the 2018/19 National Budget, Parliament had approved K700 million towards the project but the actual total funding was K400 million, according to 2018/19 Budget documents we have seen.
The total cost of constructing the three-storey building, which will have underground facilities, is K5.3 billion.
Neno South Constituency member of Parliament (MP) Mark Katsonga wondered why there is little to show on the ground when government has been allocating taxpayers’ money in previous budgets.
He said: “Money was allocated in previous budgets and now there is another allocation. Being a Blantyre resident, I don’t see much on the ground. Give us an explanation as to where the money is going?
“Is it that the allocations are made but there are no disbursements? What is really happening?”
Katsonga further stressed the need to undertake an inspection tour at the site by the legislators, alongside building experts, to do an actual cost analysis.
In the 2019/20 National Budget, government has allocated K1.4 billion as an indicative ceiling towards the same project, against a proposed ceiling of K3 billion by Ministry of Homeland Security.
Nsanje Lalanje MP Gladys Ganda, who is also the committee vice-chairperson, asked the officials to clarify on actual risks that the taxpayer faces if the project continues to delay.
Responding to the queries, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Homeland Security Sam Madula said, among other reasons, the project has been delayed due to underground cables laid underneath the project site by major utility companies such as Malawi Telecommunications Limited.
He said: “Currently, the contractor has finished excavation; works are on foundational level. We were just delayed by the presence of the underground cables at the site.”
On overall challenges facing the ministry, Madula decried inadequate funding to the ministry, which he said is impeding on the implementation of some planned activities.
On a positive note, Parliamentary Committee on Defence and International Relations chairperson Kenneth Zikhale Ng’oma commended Madula and other ministry officials who accompanied the PS for being “transparent and lucid” in their responses. In June last year, the Parliamentary Committee on International Relations also took to task the Home Affairs Security Ministry for allegedly spending about K400 million on soil testing on the project site.