Malawi: Chikuni Removed As CEO of Lilongwe Water Board - Sawa Contract, Khato Loan Bill Concerns

10 December 2019

Government has shaken up Lilongwe Water Board (LWB) by removing theparastatal chief executive officer (CEO) Alfonso Chikuni amidst n concerns of alleged corrupt practices in procurement of services including the way the board intends to award contract to Sawa Group including huge debts it cannot pay.

In a letter seen by Nyasa Times dated December 9 2019, Chiegf Secretary to Government Lloyd Muhara informed Chikuni that he has been seconded to the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation andWater Development.

Muhara said Chikuni has been redeployed to mainstream civil servce to serve as chief director responsible for Irrigation and Water Development Grade C in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development.

The secondment, according to the letter, is "with immediate effect."

"Under the terms of the secondment, Lilongwe Water Board, as your employer, will continue paying your salary and other benefits that you are entitled to and, on a quarterly basis, the Malawi government will be reimbursing to Lilongwe Water Board the salary and benefit payable to you during the period of secondment," reads Muhara's letter.

The development comes after LWB came under intense fire from members of the parliamentary committee on Natural Resources over a $17 million (about K12.5 billion) loan for the Lilongwe-Salima Water Project, the board took.

The parastatal, whose monthly turnover is K2.3 billion, could not afford the $17 million loan but the approval was made by former Finance minister Goodall Gondwe.

"The loan was taken following instructions from Treasury," Chikuni said.

LWB obtained from National Bank of Malawi (NBM) to meet some preparatory works for the K400 billion water project awarded to South Africa-based engineering firm Khato Civils, requiring it to pay NBM close to K600 million monthly.

In an earlier interview, Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale said the Office of the President and Cabinet have lunched talks with Khato Civils over the future of the mega water project.

This comes after the contractor sued the government demanding K56.2 billion in damages for the preparatory work it did on th project.

Spokesperson for the ministry of Finance Davis Saddo earlier said the future of the project is waiting for the outcome of discussions between the government and the contractor.

Meanwhile, LWB is also riddiled with controversy over the way it intends to award contract to Sawa Group over three Malawian owned companises - GIMM Water, Fisd and Master Drillers.

Sawa is said to be in a cartel of politically-connected people winning contracts through alleged corruption.

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