FND pens World Bank and IMF over K70 billion additional funding for SLWP

By Vincent Gunde

The Forum for National Development (FND) has written a letter to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) on its deep concerns regarding the financing and actions surrounding the Salima-Lilongwe Water Project (SLWP).

The FND has alleged that over K150 billion (US $89 million) has been invested in the project since its inception in 2018, yet there is little to show for such a substantial investment beyond mere mentions of equipment mobilization and project commencement.

Fryson Chodzi

The organization has urged the two international bodies to give its communication the attention it deserves and actively engage with it on behalf of the Malawian people to ensure transparency and accountability in the project for Malawians to understand how their taxes are being utilized for such critical initiatives.

In a letter dated 12th April, 2024 signed by its National Coordinator Fryson Chodzi, the FND says in the 2018/2019 financial year, the Government of Malawi disbursed US$18 million (K31 billion) to the contractor Khato Civils as mobilization for the project.

In the 2020/2021 financial year, an additional US$12 million (K20 billion) was paid to the contractor as part of the same mobilization efforts and in 2023 the Malawi Parliament authorized the borrowing of K105 billion (US$ 61 million) from National Bank and New Building Society Banks on behalf of the contractor to initiate the project works.

The FND says the passage of the bill in Parliament raised suspicions as it was alleged that some Members of Parliament (MPs) were taken to Salima where they were influenced or bribed to ensure that the bill found its way without difficulties.

“Instead of 7 days for a bill to be deliberated, it only took 4 hours from the first reading to its conclusion,” reads the letter in part.

The organization says after the authorization bill of K105 billion was passed in Parliament, reports came out alleging that the K105 billion was not meant for the intended project but rather it was part of the scheme to further exploit the Malawi Government.

It says despite the provision of funds for the project, the contractor has yet to commence any work and is now requesting an additional K70 billion (US$40 million) for devaluation adjustments before initiating the project.

The FND says it pursued legal action against the Malawi Government in a case under Commercial Cause Number 75 of 2023 lamenting that while waiting the court’s decision, the Attorney General initiated an appeal process in the Supreme Court which ruled that the case should transition from the Commercial Division to the Civil Division of the High Court.

The organization says it was disheartened to discover that the Malawi Government proceeded with payments to the contractor prior to a court ruling making them to believe that there are grave governance issues surrounding this project that demand immediate attention.

It has assured Malawians that they are prepared to engage with the World Bank and IMF if necessary to address these concerns and promises to pursue legal action if the concerns are not adequately addressed although they are mindful of potential challenges with judicial impartiality in matters related to the Salima-Lilongwe Water Project (SLWP).

The organization has finally implored the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to launch a thorough investigation into the utilization of public funds by both the contractor-Khato Civils and the Government of Malawi in the Salima-Lilongwe Water Project (SLWP).