Simbi hosted journalists from Malawi, News, Nation, Zodiak in South Africa on his account

LILONGWE (Malawi NewsNow)- Attorney-General  Kalekeni Kaphale  is querying thefinancial arrangement in the construction of water pipeline from Salima to Lilongwe  including payment modalities as wanys more financial safeguards for Malawi government in the high-profile $500 million (K400 billion) project.

The contract belongs to Lilongwe Water Board (LWB), while the contractor Khato Holdings will identify funding, but Malawi government is a guarantor to the deal.

LWB chief executive officer Alfonso Chikuni explains that the agreement stipulates that the contractor will source finances for the project and  Malawi Government is expected to be guarantor of the $500 million loan.

The project is under fire from several fronts and questions have been raised at how Khato Civils Ltd and Zambezi Pty Ltd was contracted to carry it out.

Meanwhile,  Editors of the country’s oldest weekly, Malawi News have come under intense fire from the paper’s former editors for what they say is a billionaire Simbi Phiri’s PR story on Saturday’s front page main story.

Idriss Ali Nassah, former editor of Sunday Times, sister paper to Malawi News writes on Facebook: “This is an advertorial and public relations job on behalf of Mr Simbi. It is not investigate. There is no pushback. It is not probing. What this effectively means is that those with money can fly in reporters to do their bidding. My beloved Times media should have risen (beyond) this type of payola.”

In a comment, Nassah adds that from a reputational point of view, it’s bonkers why Malawi News decided to do that.

“Things don’t look to promising for journalism in Malawi for those with money can cause a large and infuential media house that should knoe better to bend like this,” says Nassah.

In his comment, former editor of Malawi News, Limbani Moya writes: “Idriss Ali Nassah, loud and clear. George Kasakula (Malawi News Editor) and team save the country’s oldest weekly from going under ha ha ha!” Others said what Malawi News had done was unprofessional and showed how journalists can throw away journalism ethics and professionalism when dangled with sums of money. However, Kasakula dismissed this view that the editorial team was paid to do the PR story.

“True colleagues, we have not investigated anything in this story. A lot has been said and will be said about Mr Phiri due to the mega project he has won in Malawi. We thought at this stage Malawians and indeed the world would be interested to know his personal story to enrich the national conversation we certainly have on the man and this mega project worth over half of our national budget,” he says.

Some critics accuse Simbi of starting the water project of pumping the water from Lake MAlawi in Salima to Lilongwe without an environmental assessment study and doubt if this is feasible project as the project would need electricity to pump the water yet power is very erratic in the country.

There was no evidence of corruption however that reporters and editors at the newspaper received money to publish a PR story.

And the Malawi Law Society (MLS) has asked the Department of Environmental Affairs to furnish it with  such a report .

In a letter addressed to the director of Environmental Affairs Taonga Mbale dated March 21 2017, MLS has cited the Environmental Management Act as the guiding law which should be followed in the project.

This letter follows an earlier concern raised by Kenneth Wiyo, an associate professor at Bunda College of the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar), who faulted the absence of a hydrographic study and EIA.