The Joint Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture and Accounts yesterday launched a probe into the mathematical error surrounding the $14 million (about K11 billion) Northern Region Water Board (NRWB)-Sawa Group contract.
The committee has since demanded all documents relating to the contract. NRWB has lately come under spotlight for awarding the contract at $3.9 million more than Sawa Group’s bid price of $10.1 million.
The board is implementing the Mzimba Integrated Urban Water and Sanitation Project to the tune of $22.85 million.
The project is being co-funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB) at $5 million, Opec Fund for International Development Fund for $14.85 million (about K10.6 billion) and the Malawi Government at $3 million (about K2 billion).
However, there have been questions over how the contract was increased by 40 percent after it had been awarded. This prompted Members of Parliament (MPs) under the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Irrigation and Food Security to demand an inquiry into the contract between NRWB and Sawa Group.
But NRWB projects manager Asumani Ungwe yesterday said the board did not only comply with the Public Procurement Act in the process, but also complied with guidelines of the AfDB, including the disclosure of results in the papers.
Ungwe was also quick to disclose that it would be illegal for the board or any other government entity to cancel the contract it had signed with Sawa Group.
“The [NRWB] satisfied all procurement guidelines as stipulated in the Public Procurement Act of 2003 and AfDB guidelines and, therefore, cancelling [it] would be illegal and the board can be sued for unlawful termination of the contract and pay heavily in damages,” said Ungwe.
On the other hand, the board’s chief executive officer Titus Mtegha pleaded with the committee to help clear ‘negative publicity and bad image’ the contract has generated, fearing this could jeopardise future projects.
Mtegha disclosed that there are a number of projects the board is undertaking to improve delivery of water and sanitation services in the region, and that the Mzimba project is just one of them.
He said the board was within the resources approved by Parliament for the project. However, co-chairperson of the committee Alekeni Menyani retorted, saying: “This is not a PR [public relations] exercise.
“We are not here to clear the bad image or negative publicity the project has generated. We are here to interrogate the issues surrounding the awarding of the contract on behalf of the people we represent,” said Menyani.
At this point, the MPs demanded that the board should produce all documents relating to the contract. According to the MPs, the documents they want include initial blank tender document, technical and commercial requirements from the bidders, terms and conditions of the loan acquired, evaluation report and schedules of the specific clauses of the contract (disclosures).
Other documents the MPs want to see are copies of the bid documents received by the board, copies of rejection letters to unsuccessful bidders and recommendations from the consultant.
Menyani told Nation on Sunday afterwards that after going through the documents, the committee will decide whether to call for a public or confidential inquiry to “interrogate these documents”.