Malawi’s citizens have their voice on infrastructure transparency
CoST Malawi recently held a live radio debate on, ‘Can transparency add value to the development of public infrastructure projects in Malawi?’ The debate came at a time when CoST Malawi had recently released an Assurance Report which uncovered massive cost and time overruns on several public infrastructure projects.
The debate was held on Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) station which has a nationwide listenership of 76%. Panellists for the debate included Joe Ching’ani, Chair CoST Malawi, Rex Chiluzi, Principle Secretary II Ministry of Transport and Public Works, Jeff Kabondo, African Institute of Corporate Citizenship (AICC) and Gerald Khonje, National Construction Industry Council (NCIC). The two hour debate received an overwhelming response from the public with many questions submitted by SMS.
For example, Leston Chikopa from Ntchisi asked “How does CoST deal with political interference in public infrastructure projects; for instance, we note that many projects arise from political podiums without proper budgeting and consultation, and contracts are awarded to companies with links to politicians”.
In response, Rex Chiluzi pointed out that government is committed to ensuring that there is no political interference as shown by the establishment of Government Contracting Unit in the Office of President and Cabinet (OPC). The unit will scrutinize all contracts to filter any political and individual interference. He also reiterated that government is identifying a CoST Champion as it believes in the programme.
In response to a question on how much information is disclosed by procuring entities Jeff Kabondo, stated “There is a lot that is not revealed to the citizens. It’s high time we know who owns firms behind many public infrastructure projects, their friends and cronies. We are surprised that the same firms are awarded multiple contracts even with evident cases of non-performance”.
In response, audience member Timothy Kalembo, Assistant Director at the Office of the Director of Public Procurement (ODPP), noted that such acts of secrecy will be addressed with the proposed amendments to the Public Procurement Act which take on board the CoST disclosure requirements.
It was an exciting night as many Malawian citizens made significant contributions and showed their interest in construction governance.
In his concluding remarks, Joe Chinga’ani stated, “CoST is about promoting best practices and not finger pointing nor witch hunting. And even if it was a witch hunting program, why would you be afraid if you are not a witch?”
The panel (From left to right): Jeff Kabondo, Gerald Khonje, Rex Chiluzi and Joe Ching’ani.