By Gabriel Kamlomo

WITHIN ten years, close to K10 billion of taxpayers’ money, including loans from international banks, has been spent on futile attempts to construct a durable class 1 bitumen standard road on a 33 km stretch crossing Nkhotakota Game Reserve.
And after the two expensive but fruitless projects involving Mota- Engil and Shire Construction Companies, the road is back to an earth road connecting Nkhotakota and Malomo in Ntchisi district on the sugar exportation route to Zambia via Mchinji.
Ironically, the government has now silently awarded another K3.1 billion contract to a Chinese company called China Railway No 5 Company to, again, construct a class 1 bitumen standard road on the very 33 km stretch of road across the game reserve.
With the latest development, the taxpayer shall have spent about K15 billion on the said 33 km stretch by the time China Railway No 5 Company shall have finished.
China Railway No 5 Company began work on Tuesday 11th June, 2013 when Roads Authority officially handed over site.
“This road will be a Class 1 bitumen road in which the prism is such that you have 6.7m plus 1.5m on either side of surfaces road, giving a total of 9.7m wide formation at finished road level,” Roads Authority Public Relations Manager Portia Kajanga confirmed in an interview with The Daily Times.
Mota-Engil were the first to work on the stretch at a cost of 15. 88 million UA (about US$22.5m) while supervising engineers, CODA and Partners were paid 2.84 million UA from funds that the Malawi government got from the African Development Bank (ADB) as loan.
The assignment took Mota- Engil four and a half years to complete and the works were certified by the site supervising engineer, government engineers and the National Roads Authority before the road was officially opened in May 2004.
“Since the works that were carried out in the 33km Game Reserve Section were temporary, the road deteriorated and action had to be taken to save the situation. The second contract was awarded to Shire Construction Company to re-construct the road to Class 1 bitumen standard,” Kajanga said.
Kajanga explained that the Msulira-Nkhotakota Road covers a distance of 81 km from Kasungu and that the 33km portion in question (from the first gate of the reserve to the end of the game reserve) was only re-aligned and constructed to sub-base level and then provided with a single seal tarmac as that portion was not part of the loan “due to ADB Game Reserve Requirements”.
“The section was therefore not constructed to Class 1 standard because of financial limitations. It, however, achieved the purpose of re-alignment and widening. Government’s plan was to come up with a more permanent construction at a later stage,” she said.
The documentation in our possession shows that from an initial taxpayer-bill of K2.4 billion, Shire Construction was later entitled to K4.1 billion for the 33 km stretch owing to “an addendum to cater for haulage of sub-base and base materials and escalation of construction materials due to inflation and other macro-economic factors prevalent at that time.
The Shire Construction assignment to construct a class 1 bitumen standard road on the 33 km Msulira-Nkhotakota Road project originally designed to take 13 months consumed 38 months before the works were stopped because government failed to meet its contractual obligations.
The development resulted in government accumulating a K3.67 billion bill with Shire Construction Company which the Roads Authority claims has since been paid over the period of the contract on a monthly basis according to work that had been done on site, according to Kajanga.
“(The extension was) due to delayed payments, shortage of fuel in the country and shortage of forex for importation of spare parts and other items….(but) The works were of a good quality, the construction followed the specified standards. The work was executed satisfactorily but had to be stopped on economic grounds,” Kajanga agrees.
The developments have surprised people on the two sides of the reserve who argue what exactly government has been up to spending huge amounts of money for no work done.
“At first we were told it had something to do with the wild animals that the poor quality of the road was because they wanted to accommodate animals too. But shall we be spending billions every five years doing the same things on the same patch or road?
“We hope the new company will put up a road that will last. Those billions spent are enough to construct a quality road longer than the 33km stretch,” said Aidan Masaaudzu from Ntchisi.
Kaundama Saulosi of Nkhotakota simply said “do you think that money was all spent here?”

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