The Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has asked government to reject the proposed 40 percent increase in the budget for the Marka-Bangula railway line, from the initially contracted budget of K68.2 billion to a staggering K96.2 billion.
HRDC has said in a statement that it is deeply troubled by the proposed budget increase and has called on Government to reject this abusive cost escalation.
China Railway 20 Bureau Group Corporation is the contractor for the project to rehabilitate the Marka-Bangula Railway section. The company has reportedly asked for an increase in the project budget.
In a statement released yesterday and signed by chairperson Gift Trapence, HRDC says the proposed 40 percent increase in the budget for the Marka-Bangula railway line raises serious questions and concerns among the general public who are tax payers.
The HRDC, while noting that unexpected challenges can arise during large-scale projects, says it believes it is crucial to scrutinize the justifications provided by the contractor for this substantial cost increase.
“The contractor’s assertion is that the cost of the project has surged due to soil investigations surveys for the existing railway alignment and the effects of cyclones Ana, Gombe, and Freddy among other related issues. HRDC has more questions to many contractors who would want to ask more price adjustments in the midst of project implementation and yet it is the very same contractors that submit lower bids in order to win contracts,” reads part of the statement.
The coalition in its statement adds that the practice of submitting lower
bids during project tendering processes only to later request significant budget increases puts a heavy burden on the government and, by extension, the Malawian taxpayer.
HRDC has since demanded accountability from both contractors and the relevant government agencies responsible for overseeing these projects.
“It is essential to hold contractors accountable for the accuracy of their initial project estimates. Contractors who submit unrealistically low bids with the intention of revising budgets later should face consequences for their actions,
including potential legal and financial penalties and even termination of such contracts.
“In light of these concerns, HRDC calls upon the The Ministry of Transport and Public Works to conduct a thorough and impartial review of the budget increase for the Marka-Bangula railway line, including an independent assessment of the contractor’s justifications. The Ministry should not accept abusive price adjustment of the contract.
“We urge the government to enhance oversight mechanisms for large infrastructure projects, including more stringent evaluation of contractor bids and
better monitoring of project progress,” reads part of the HRDC statement.
The coalition has also called for legal action to be taken against contractors who engage in the practice of submitting unrealistically low bids with the intent of inflating project budgets later.
“It is our collective responsibility to ensure that public funds are utilized effectively, transparently, and for the benefit of all citizens.
“We will continue to monitor this situation closely and will not hesitate to take further
action to safeguard of the tax payers,” the coalition has said in the statement.