Sunday, May 26, 2024

Malawi law-makers want contractor to refund MAREP funds

Malawi Parliament

In a staunch defense of public finances, Members of Parliament (MPs) made a resolute demand for the reimbursement of public funds from a contractor engaged under the Malawi Rural Electrification Project 9 (Marep 9), following the annulment of contracts.

The call arose subsequent to a report presented by the Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Climate Change regarding the project’s current status, which has yet to commence.

Committee vice-chairperson George Million, in presenting the report, revealed that as of October 2023, four suppliers had failed to fulfill their obligations. After consultations with the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA) and the Office of the Attorney General, the Ministry of Energy decided to terminate the contracts of these underperforming contractors.

He said: “Of the four non-performing, Ndawala 2 and Marep 9 supply contactors, three had collected advance payments.

“It was indicated that the Ministry of Energy had written the contractors in question to return the advance payments they collected and as at October 2023, only two had paid back the funds and one was yet to repay the ministry.”

In response to the report, Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Kondwani Nankhumwa, emphasized the need for the Attorney General’s intervention to facilitate the recovery of taxpayers’ funds. Thyolo Central MP Ben Phiri (Democratic Progressive Party) and Mangochi South parliamentarian Lilian Patel (United Democratic Front) echoed Nankhumwa’s sentiments, underscoring the critical role of electricity in driving national development.

However, during a point of order, Leader of the House Richard Chimwendo Banda cautioned against mentioning individuals who cannot defend themselves in the House, leading to speculation that the government was shielding those involved in fraudulent activities.

According to the report, all suppliers who received advance payments provided bank bonds covering 100 percent of the funds received. Upon notification of contract termination, three contractors instructed their banks to release the bonds to the ministry.

The committee lamented that despite the project not commencing as of October 2023, K6.2 billion had already been expended to compensate for 95 percent of Marep 9. Earlier, the Ministry of Energy had stated that material supply contracts amounted to K71 billion, while construction works, awarded before the 44 percent kwacha devaluation in November, were valued at K9 billion.

The program aimed to connect 416 sites to electricity.

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