A K10 billion maximum security prison project which the government embarked on over five years ago to de-congest the country’s prisons has stalled due to funding constraints, prison authorities have confirmed.
The development has turned the 300 hectares allocated to prisons with a capacity of 4 000 inmates at Chitedze in Lilongwe into a farm.
According to Parliamentary chairperson on Defence and Security Olipa Myaba in 2010, government bought the 300 hectares for a modern correctional facility.
But she said so far, government has only raised a flat to accommodate six employees and one senior staff house.
“We have visited a number of prisons across the country, including Maula in Lilongwe. There is too much overcrowding in the facilities. Our wish is that the project should be completed so that it can absorb the pressure in the prisons. But as at now, there is not much progress and the land is being used as a farm,” Myaba said.
According to the 2016/2017 budget documents, the country’s prisons are overcrowded—holding more than twice their capacity of 7 000 inmates.
The 2012/2013 national budget allocated K200 million for the project and the figure was revised further downwards to K180 million in the 2013/2014 budget. There was no funding in 2014/2015 and 2015/16 budgets.
Prisons spokesperson Smart Maliro on Tuesday said the Chitedze project has stalled due to funding inconsistencies.
“There was no budget line in the 2016/2017 financial year for the project. Besides, the plan drawings took some time to be out including some contractual issues with the contractor which took time to sort out. As for the farm issue, this is just a temporary arrangement. However, some smaller part of the land will be spared for some farming activities,” he said.
Government embarked on the project after the United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and the African Commission for Human and Peoples Rights (AfCHPR), among other international human rights bodies, condemned the Government of Malawi for failing to keep inmates under conditions consistent with human dignity.
Home Affairs minister Grace Chiumia acknowledged, in a telephone interview, hiccups surrounding the project.
“As we are talking now, there is a scheduled meeting with the prisons department chief this week to discuss that project. I hope there will be progress with the coming budget,” said Chiumia. n