Communities in Nkhata Bay want answers in a K314 million (US$762 136) construction project earmarked to start in 2010 at St. Augustine Community Day Secondary School (CDSS) in the district.
Communities surrounding the school claim that government, through the African Development Fund (Malawi/ADF Education V Project) was supposed to construct or maintain one block consisting a laboratory, a library and a reading room; one staff house, water services, solar power installation, associated external works and deliver classroom equipment.
But a visit by The Nation to the school on Friday showed that no structure has been constructed or maintained except for the delivery of school desks, computers, photocopier, printer and laboratory equipment in 2013.
During the visit, the District Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue Committee led by the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) of the Mzuzu Diocese also presented its findings of the ‘ghost’ project at an interface meeting with various stakeholders.
Information gathered from the school visitors’ book shows that several officials from the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology in Lilongwe visited the school to, among other things, monitor infrastructure construction, yet there was no infrastructure under construction.
The communities also allege that between 2010 and 2011, construction machinery (Grader) was brought to the school, but it was withdrawn within two days. They allege further that within the same years the school was visited by officials from the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) to install electricity on the supposedly ‘constructed’ structures.
The communities have also sourced an advert from the Ministry of Education that appeared in The Daily Times of December 5 2011, which calls for bidders to construct, complete and maintain a laboratory, library and reading room, a staff house, water services, solar power installation and associated external works.
According to the advert, these works were supposed to be done in nine secondary schools in selected districts, including Chadabwa (Lilongwe), Katewe, Katsekaminga (Dedza), Kambale (Neno), Muhasuwa (Chiradzulu), Mpinji (Thyolo), Mkumaniza (Chikwawa) and Masenjere (Nsanje).
District Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue Committee chairperson John Chunda said this information shows that funds for the project were released, but they might have been misappropriated since there are no structures on the ground.
Acting education division manager (EDM) in the North, Pauper Mkandawire, said his office has never been consulted on the project.
But he confirmed that it was being supervised by officials from the ministry’s headquarters.
In an interview with The Nation on Friday, director of education planning in the Ministry of Education, Victor Lungu, dismissed fears of misappropriation of funds for the project.
He said the Malawi/ADF Education V Project, which phased out in 2012, was initiated to upgrade about 30 secondary schools nationwide. He said projects in each school were worth $800 000 (about K314 million).
“We were able to upgrade only 18 schools while 12 were left out. The problem was that we did not have enough money to complete projects in these other schools,” he said. He did not explain why there was a deficit when the project had a budget for 18 schools.
Deputy head teacher at the school, Nathan Munthali, said the school has inadequate infrastructure such that Form One students use a hall for classes.
Mzuzu CCJP diocesan secretary Arnold Msimuko, whose organisation—with support from Tilitonse Fund is implementing a governance project in the district— said justice should prevail in this matter.