The upgrading process of Thelele Health Post in the area of Traditional Authority (TA) Wavikaza in Chitipa District facility to a full health centre to cater for expectant mothers has delayed due to financial mess of the K19 million community managed socio-economic project (COMSEP) funded project.
Investigations carried out by Public Expenditure Tracking (PET) focal team has revealed that mismanagement of public funds and failure by District Council officials to monitor and supervise construction works of the facility led the contractor to build a substandard structure and failed to meet the nine months deadline.
According to the secretary of Thelele PET focal team, Chrispin Munthali the identification of a contractor was also not procedural as the contractor, Francis Mphande was just handpicked leaving out those who submitted their bids.
The report further revealed that the contractor charged K6.5 million as his payment — which represents about 34 percent of the K19 million budgeted for — which is way above what contractors are supposed to charge on development funded projects that requires that the community should provide bricks and sand as 25 percent contribution.
”The initial amount was K20.7 million for Thelele area development committee (ADC),” says Munthali. “So, five percent was deducted as the Council’s administrative fee to monitor and supervise the project, leaving us with K19 million.
“However, the project stalled without a single visit from any official from the District Council.”
Munthali further said the first withdrawal of K7 million for building material was done by the whole committee while the second withdrawal of K10 million was done by the projects implementation committee chairperson, Happy Chioni without the knowledge of the PET secretary while K10,000 is alleged to have gone to unnamed accounts clerk in the office of director of finance as a kick back to fast track the process of payment.
When asked to explain the expenditure of the K10 million, Chioni is reported to have just apologised to the ADC and PET committee members for the mess.
Former projects implementation committee treasurer, Wilton Sichinga said the matter has to be investigated further and bring to book everyone involved in the mess to recover the mismanaged money and complete the project.
However, Chitipa District Council and Chitipa District Hospital (DHO) officials delegated by the District Commissioner, Humphrey Gondwe did not turn up for the interface meeting facilitated by Justice and Peace of Karonga Diocese at Thelele to face the community despite being given allowances, citing politics surrounding the project.
District Commissioner Gondwe was elusive when called to divulge more details on the allegations leveled against the Council.
Health governance project coordinator at Just and Peace of Karonga Diocese, whose institution is implementing an Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) health governance project in Chitipa, described the development as sad.
Mkandawire further bemoaned the delay by government to operationalise the Access to Information Bill that was assented to by the President in 2017, saying it is another setback as community members are failing to get vital information from Councils for various projects.