Ministry of Transport and Public Works continues to defy standard procurement regulations in the awarding of the Marka – Bangula Railway project to China Railway 20 Bureau Group Corporation, further heightening the controversy that has delayed the project since last year.
The project seeks to design, upgrading and rehabilitation the 72-kilometer railway line that will connect Malawi to the Mozambique rail network and facilitate trade.
A Notification of Intention to Award Contract, published in this weekend papers, is deliberately silent on very crucial aspects of such a document as it leaves out names and particulars of other bidders as per requirement.
The law requires that whenever a government entity – being client in any procurement process – publishes a notification to award a contract, they must mention all bidders and their accompanying costs. The requirement is important because it places government projects in the public domain where taxpayers can appreciate how their money is being spent.
To the surprise of procurement and construction experts, the International Procurement and Disposal Committee at the Ministry has just published their intention by mentioning China Railway 20 as the successful bidder and their estimated cost.
The other three bidders – China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, D & M Construction/ Malbro Construction JV and Mota Engil – have been hidden in the notification together with their cost estimates.
The hiding of the other bidders’ particulars has further unearthed another protruding anomaly on the criteria used to select China Railway as the successful bidder.
This being a restricted tender where contractors are shortlisted based on their known track record, it raises questions on how a bid that was not the cheapest ended up being picked as successful.
At K63.8 billion China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation was the cheapest bid against China Railways’ bid which was pegged at K68.9 billion.
Local experts further say if the procurement committee had applied adequate due diligence they could have even settled for the only local bidder, D & M Construction/Malbro Construction JV.
They argue that though the local bidder estimated the cost of the project at K70.5 billion, regulatory local preferences should have been considered by the committee to align with government policy of empowering local contractors and facilitating job creation among Malawians.
The project was initially awarded to Mota Engil last year only to be withdrawn by Anti Corruption Bureau who then ordered this recent retendering process.