The construction of Phalombe District Hospital could wait much longer as the project which was supposed to commence 15 years ago will have to be retendered, Weekend Nation has established.
The development will be a big blow to Phalombe residents who on October 14 2015 were assured by President Peter Mutharika that construction of the long-awaited district hospital would start “within two to three months”.
Phalombe District Hospital project has been a thorny issue for a long time with people asking government to clarify on allocations in the national budget since 2005 towards the project.
In June last year, disgruntled people in Phalombe petitioned the President on the stalled project. They asked the President to visit the district within 14 days and give them an update.
In addition to budget allocations, Parliament in 2008 also approved a Loan Authorisation Bill for government to borrow $18 million from Saudi Fund for Development and Arab Bank for Economic Development (Badea) for the project.
Each year, government has been putting aside in the budget around K100 million to K150 million resources for implementing this project.
The project cost for construction, according to the Ministry of Health is approximately (about $22 million or about K15 billion at current exchange rates).
But principal secretary in the Minister of Health (MoH), MacPhail Magwira recently told the Parliamentary Committee on Health that the project financier Badea has not given MoH a ‘‘no objection’’.
In tendering process, a certificate of ‘‘No Objection” means the document evidencing and authenticating that due process and the letters of the tender process have followed the required procedure.
Magwira said since there is was a ‘no objection’ from Badea this will mean the project might stall a little longer than expected.
“Government will have to set the dates for the commencement of the said project as Badea, who are funding the project, have a final say. Government will be retendering the project because Badea refused to issue the Ministry of Health with no objection,” Magwira told the committee.
Last month, in State-of-the-Nation Address, Mutharika assured Malawians that the construction of the hospital was expected to start after July.
During a cluster meeting last week, some members of Parliament (MPs) cornered deputy director in the Office of the Director of Public Procurement (ODPP) Edward Jeke why government wants to retender the project.
But Jeke informed the MPs that MoH was in a better position to respond to the query.
He said the matter is tricky because his office has its hands tied as the law is not clear on what the ODPP is supposed to do if contractors delay a project.
However, this explanation did not go down well with chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Health, Juliana Lunguzi who said the Phalombe District Hospital is being used as a pawn to win votes.
“If the hospital is constructed it will be able to serve a population of about half a million. We cannot deny the people of Phalombe their right to health,” said Lunguzi, who is also Malawi Congress Party (MCP) MP for Dedza East. n