A decision by the Malawi government,through Ministry of Labour, to award a K847 million contract to Sandstone Building Contractors that has links to a senior Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) official Dean Josaya Banda to construct a community techincal college in Chiradzulu has raised eyebrows because the contract was awarded without following laid down tendering procedures.
Documents in Nyasa Times possesion show that Ministry of Labour in January 2020 awarded Sandstone Building Contractors the multimillion kwacha contract to construct a community techincal college in Chiradzulu without a bid document and that no bid was advertised in the media as required under the law.
"I am pleased to inform you that the contract has been awarded to you for the constrcution of a Community Technical College in Chiradzulu at a contract sum of Eight Hundred Fourty Seven Million, Seven Hundred Sixty Two Thousand Five Hundred Kwacha only (MK 847,762,500.00)," reads a contract award letter to Sandstone dated January 28, 2020 and signed by Principal Secretary Esmie Kainja.
Nyasa Times investigations have revealed that the award of the contract was done without an evaluation Committee to review the tender document and select a winner.
At the same time, the winning bidder and the award of the contract was supposed to be published in the media for transparency and accountability which was not done.
More suspicious is the fact that in a contract agreement between the Ministry of Labour and Sandstone, the ministry offered to pay Sandstone 35% of the contract amount as advance payment instead of the normal 20 percent.
This was done without Sandstone prividing a performance bond from the Bank and an insurance bond to protect the workers.
"The contract does not have a financial proposal and should have competed with other bidders which was not the case. Therefore there is no basis on which the contractor was offered MK800 Million Kwacha contract," lamented an official at National Construction Industry Council (NCIC).
The contract agreement, a copy which Nyasa Times has in our possession, was signed by Esmie Kainja on behalf of the ministry of labour while Thomas Chirwa signed on behalf of Sandstone as Managing Director and Dean Josaya as a witness.
Dean Joyaya is also a special adviser to President Peter Mutharika.
On January 29, 2020 Chirwa wrote Ministry of Labour acknowledging receipt of the contract award letter and expressing Sandstone's readiness to execute the contract.
"On behalf of Sandstone Contractors, I have accepted the above mentioned contract," wrote Chirwa.
There are fears that the contract is one of schemes to siphon public money and that Sandstone may just be a conduit for the act.
According to policy, only bidders in the category of more than MK1 billion were eligible to put their bids but this contractor is in the category of below MK500 million.
The contract to construct the community techincal college is supposed to be done wihthin 16 weeks, according to the contract agreement.