Projects are given a time frame during which they should be executed. This is done to ensure planning in terms of both financial and other resources. However, in Malawi, it is rare for a road project to start and finish within the stated period.
While there are a number of issues that lead to the delays in the timely completion of the roads, the developments rob Malawians of the right to enjoy social and economic benefits the projects could have brought them in the long run.
Examples abound of projects that are robbing Malawians. For example, people in parts of Blantyre, Zomba and Machinga are being denied potential social and economic benefits that come with a good road. This is due to delays to start construction of the Lirangwe-Chingale-Machinga Road which starts at Lirangwe Trading Centre about 30 kilometres north of Blantyre City.
This road extends northwards passing through Chingale and Chinseu trading centres in Zomba District and connects the Zomba-Liwonde Road at Chingale Turn-off in Machinga District.
Communities to benefit from the road, whose foundation stone was laid by former president Joyce Banda just a few weeks before the May 20 2014 Tripartite Elections, have been promised the road so many times.
Recently, Roads Authority (RA) has included the road among the list of five roads it has planned to work on starting from November 30 2015 all the way to 2018. However, worth noting is the fact that civil works for the Lirangwe-Chingale-Machinga Road will commence in July2016 as government says it is still sourcing additional funds required for the works as only part of the funds have been identified.
Speaking in an interview after the announcement was made in September, Zomba Diocese Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) diocesan director for research and development Raphael Yusufu said it is a hard and difficult thing for the people who are supposed to benefit from the road to accept the promise after several empty promises, the most recent one being that the road was scheduled to start in June this year.
He said CCJP started working in the area in 2008 and found plans for the construction of the road already in place, but today, about seven years later, nothing tangible has happened rather than politicians using it as a campaign tool during elections.
Said Yusufu: “What the community members want to hear is that the road project will commence soon because they are tired of being given dates that do not materialise in the end which is a sad development, especially when we look at the importance of the road.”
Yusufu’s sentiments come against the background of Minister of Transport and Public Works Francis Kasaila’s promise in March this year that the road project, “come what may”, would start “very soon” and that once the donor gives the go-ahead, government was to expedite the process of identifying a contractor within 90 days.
Kasaila told the community then that the road project had alreadybeen allocated $10 million (about K4.5 billion) from the Kuwait Fund following Parliament’s approval of the Loan Authorisation Bill and that, initially, government needed $32 million (about K14.4 billion) to complete the road.
Meanwhile, chiefs from Blantyre, Zomba and Machinga districts, in August said they wanted an audience with President Peter Mutharika on the issue as they and their subjects feel cheated and betrayed by the many unfulfilled promises government has been making.
Road projects progress report
Construction plans for the road date back to the 1980s as for over two decades, the people of Likwenu in Machinga, Chingale in Zomba and Lirangwe in Blantyre have been lobbying for a tarmac road in their areas as the current road is impassable, especially during rainy season.
The construction project officially started on February 29 2008 and was planned to run up to February 28 2011. The contractor, whose contract was terminated last year, M.A. Kharafi and Sons, mobilised some resources to the site and had started works on bush clearing from Makwasa towards Thekerani and about seven kilometers of the road section had been cleared. However, the works could not continue because there were no funds for the project.
In the meantime, civil works on the road are expected to commence by November 30 2015 and completion date for the works has been scheduled for May 31 2018 after a contract period of 30 months. The project has missed its planned deadline by about five years.
The project cost has jumped with K15 billion ($27.5 million) at the current exchange rate.
The construction of the road which was initially supposed to be completed in four years spanning between November 2005 and May 2008, was suspended after funding was exhausted before completion. At some point, the road project had a revised completion period to May 15, 2009, an extension by one year.
The project is expected to resume this November and projected to end in November 2017 after missing its target by about seven years.
Rehabilitation of the Mzuzu–Nkhata Bay Road
AfDB financed the Mzuzu-Nkhata Bay Road rehabilitation project launched on July 23 2013. The $36 million ($66 055) (estimated to be K14.8 billion that time) project was planned to be implemented over a period of four years from 2013 to 2017. The rehabilitation project, starting two years behind schedule, will commence by November 2015 and the works are expected to be completed in June 2017.
Treasury spokesperson Nations Msowoya agreed that the three road projects — Thyolo-Makwasa-Thekerani-Muona-Bangula Road, Lirangwe-Chingale-Machinga Road and the Zomba-Jali-Phalombe-Chitakale Road — have indeed delayed beyond their planned execution period.
In an e-mailed response to a questionnaire, he said as a result of this, it is obvious costs to government are higher than originally budgeted.
What next on delayed road projects?
We engaged Vice-President Saulos Chilima, who is the champion of the Construction Sector Transparency Initiative (CoST).
CoST is a country-centred initiative that drives better value from infrastructure by increasing transparency and accountability in its delivery.
In an e-mailed response to a questionnaire through his press officer Pilirani Phiri, the Vice-President said there are many factors that causes delays in construction of roads and they include delayed commencement of civil works which are resultant of delays in relocation of services like water and electricity and onset of the rainy season if coincides with project commencement.
On strategies put in place to reverse the trend, Chilima said government has put in place a number of strategies to ensure that infrastructure projects are delivered timely, at reasonable cost and high quality.
He indicated: “These strategies include that funding for infrastructure projects is available on time to avoid cost and time overruns and tightening of contract negotiations with financiers and contractors to eliminate flaws.”
Chilima said CoST is yet to undertake a detailed analysis of the impact of the delayed projects.