CDEDI Executive director Sylvester Namiwa

LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)-The country’s governance rights body Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI) has written Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to probe on dubious Southern Region Waterboard (SRWB) awarding a contract to a very expensive foreign based company,Algahanim/Plem Construction Company.

The development has raised a lot of questions as to why the parastal body could prefer expensive and foreign bidder when local companies could offer the same work.

In a letter dated October 26, 2020 signed by CDEDI Executive director Sylvester Namiwa addressing ACB Director General is puzzled with the authorities at the SRWB are also claiming that the ACB was involved in the whole procurement process.

This has prompted CDEDI’s curiosity to validate the claim hence the letter to ACB.

“It is also worth to note that the appetite for foreign based contractors is not strange to Malawi because similar strategies were employed by the previous regimes, as a way of siphoning money from the donor partners by some selfish politicians and individuals.

“It is our hope that your office will investigate the whole procurement process at the SRWB with the urgency it deserves, for being very suspicious and backed with very flimsy justification by the concerned staff at the parastatal,” read part of the letter to ACB.

Below is CDEDI letter to ACB:

Dear Sir,

RE: REQUEST TO PROBE THE SRWB ON SUSPICIOUS PROCUREMENT PROCEDURES

The Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI) writes to report about the suspicious procurement procedures at the Southern Region Waterboard (SRWB) that have led the parastatal to award a contract to a very expensive foreign based company,Algahanim/Plem Construction Company.

CDEDI believes the matter is of public interest since the Mangochi Portable Water Supply Project is being undertaken using funds that have been sourced through a loan from the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development, which will be repaid using taxpayers’ money. We suspect the procurement process was marred by corrupt practices and is worth being investigated by the ACB.

On Friday, 23rdOctober 2020The Nation newspaper published an article under the headline “MK10 Billion Water Project Deal Raises Eyebrows.. SRWB leaves lowest bidder with MK1.6 billion difference”which revealed that the project shall cost Malawians MK1.6 billion more than what the lowest bidder had offered. According to the article, Jiangsu Suzhong Construction Group Company Limited, made a bid of $16.3 million; Algahanim/Plemquoted $14.4 million; Sawa Group/Metito joint venture priced its bid at $21.7 million; Kuwait Dynamic Limited/Fisd partnership offered $12.3 million.

The SRWB evaluation report, which CDEDI has seen, shows that the lowest bidder “passed” both preliminary examination and detailed technical evaluation, but was not picked purportedly because the bidder’s pricing offer showed lack of understanding of the “technicalities” and complexities of the project.

While we are aware of the technicalities in the procurement process that have enabled the SRWB to award this bidder with the highest pricing offer, local procurement experts have faulted the justification by the SRWB to settle for the expensive bidder.

The experts have elucidated that at financial stage, the evaluation should have considered financial related matters and not technical issues. From this school of thought, it is crystal clear that some corners have been cut! Also, the investigations conducted by CDEDI have revealed that this lowest bidder has done a similar job for the SRWB before, an indication that the bidder is well conversant with the job in question, if the bidder’s track record is anything to go by.

The awarding of this contract to a foreign based company, comes at a time when the Director General, Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA) had issued a circular from the PPDA, Ref. No. PPDA/01/22 dated 1st July 2019, addressed to all Principal Secretaries, Chief Executives of Parastatal organizations under the headline “APPLICATION OF SECTION 44 (10) OF THE PUBLIC PROCUREMENT AND DISPOSAL OF PUBLIC ASSETS ACT (2017)” which states that a procuring entity shall ensure prioritization of all bids submitted to give preference to 60 percent indigenous Malawians and 40 percent others for national competitive bidding. In a layman’s point of view, this guidance was given by the PPDA in the spirit of empowering local businesses in the country.

What SRWB has done is very similar to a decision that was made by the Ministry of Health to award a contract to a foreign based bidder to supply ambulances to the ministry.

When the alarm was raised, the authorities at the ministry of health had indicated that the ACB was involved in the whole procurement process, and yet your office quickly moved in and ordered the ministry to halt all processes of awarding the contract to a Zambian company until investigations into the procurement process were concluded.

Coincidentally, the authorities at the SRWB are also claiming that the ACB was involved in the whole procurement process, hence CDEDI’s curiosity to validate this claim with your office, sir.

It is also worth to note that the appetite for foreign based contractors is not strange to Malawi because similar strategies were employed by the previous regimes, as a way of siphoning money from the donor partners by some selfish politicians and individuals.

It is our hope that your office will investigate the whole procurement process at the SRWB with the urgency it deserves, for being very suspicious andbacked with very flimsy justification by the concerned staff at the parastatal.

Yours faithfully,

Sylvester Namiwa

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR.

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