Mzuzu Civic Offices has a fabulous and modern office complex that houses all its six departments under one roof. These offices also include the opulent offices of the City father, his deputy and the spacious chamber for the city aldermen.
But the only problem is that as of now this one-stop office complex has existed on paper or in officials’ heads for the past 21 years or so.
And even the Council’s department of Planning and Development or any other department does not have the blue print except incomprehensible anecdotal evidence of what happened to imaginary complex.
The stuck reminder of this dream is a decaying foundation, which is overgrown with grass and in some parts turned into flowerbeds.
Incidentally, the remnants of this foundation, is juxtaposed between the decrepit and derelict office block that houses, the Mayor, his deputy, the director of administration and the other where the director of finance, the internal auditor and others are.
Over the years, people who work in these two office blocks have created footpaths across the foundation as they traverse it when doing official business.
Presently the City Council’s departments are scattered all-over the city in decrepit and derelict structures that the former ruling Malawi Congress Party (MCP) built way back when it declared Mzuzu a City.
From 1994 various Presidents and Ministers have visited the Mzuzu Civic Offices for official business and paradoxically taken group pictures on top of this decaying foundation before hurrying for other official engagements.
Centre for Investigative Journalism Malawi (CIJM) investigations have revealed that nobody at the Council either present or former knows what happened to the proposed offices, why the contractor failed to finish the project and how much was paid for the job.
“The director of Planning recommended to the Council to construct one block at the civic offices to accommodate his department. He described the situation at the present offices as pathetic. He said the office block would cost MK750,000 which he said could be raised internally,” reads part of the 2002 Council minutes, copies which CIJM obtained.
However, other members at that meeting differed with him saying the Council had an outstanding case with Kadokera Building Contractors, whom they said absconded works.
The Council then resolved that it would construct the Office block using own resources in phases starting with the offices for the Planning and Estates department.
Twenty-one years down the road, nothing has happened.
The minutes also show that the contract for the office complex was awarded to the defunct Kadokera Building Contractors and that the Council was locked up in a legal battle with the contractor.
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs and a senior Peoples Party stalwart Ephraim Mganda Chiume owned Kadokera Building Contractors.
“What I know is that the Germans funded this project and dealt direct with the contractor. They paid him everything. We do not know anything apart from that,” said a former CEO.
In email correspondences with CIJM Chiume denied abandoning the project saying his company only did the work it was paid for.
City residents and businesses owe the Council MK1.1 billion in default payments for various rates and the Council has forecasted total revenue of MK1.2 billion for the 2017/18 financial year.
But despite the status quo, the 2017/18 national budget currently under deliberation in Parliament shows that the Democratic Progressive Party government has allocated MK700 million to the Mzuzu City Council to kick the project to build new civic offices.
“In fact we have acquired a large new site for the project,” Mzuzu City Council Spokesperson Karen Msika said in a telephone interview.
This story was produced by the Centre for Investigative Journalism Malawi (CIJM) – www.investigative-malawi.com