Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has once again written the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to act on Electricity Supply Commission of Malawi (Escom) on a contract to supply meters and meter boxes they suspect was dubiously awarded.
ACB director general Reyneck Matemba confirmed in an interview yesterday the bureau received the complaint, adding what happens when they receive such a complaint is that they open a file and investigations follow.
“We’ve an agreement with HRDC through their whistleblower initiative, and we’ll keep on receiving such complaints. This is the third complaint on Escom from HRDC,” he said.
HRDC, in the letter dated July 28 2020 signed by chairperson Gift Trapence and national coordinator Luke Tembo, says Escom in September 2016 advertised for restricted tendering of 185 000 meters.
“The Escom internal procurement committee recommended that the contract should be awarded to Shenzen Intermeter Company Limited for the contract sum of $1 587 647.
“The Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority rejected the recommendation. In September 2017, Escom advertised an open tender for 193 000 meter boxes and 126 200 meters,” read the letter.
It says Escom split this into 10 lots with four lots for meters and six for meter boxes.
“Our investigations indicate that these were awarded to 11 companies, but all these companies are linked to the above mentioned [person]. Our investigations indicate that this linkage led to the cancellation of the tender.
“In 2018 Escom advertised for another tender this, too, was awarded to the [same person]. It is alleged this person was backed by powerful political forces and that the tender was manipulated,” HRDC claims.
ACB recently pounced on Escom where it arrested the power utility’s former board chairperson, former chief executive officer and two others in connection with a K4 billion corruption probe.
The ACB also arrested former Escom director of procurement Fanuel Nkhono and senior procurement officer Emilias Kandapo in relation to the procurement scam at the power utility.
In April this year, our sister newspaper Weekend Nation reported that ACB had concluded investigations into the procurement deal and recommended the prosecution of the suspects that included John Kandulu and Jean Mathanga for alleged neglect of official duty under Section 121 of the Penal Code.
The probe followed a complaint ACB received on September 21 2016 from an informant that there was political interference in the manner procurement contracts and payments were made.
According to an internal ACB memo dated July 2019, the graft-busting body concluded its investigations with Matemba approving a request from the investigator to proceed with prosecution of the suspects on March 26 2020.
The ACB, according to the memo, indicated that it wanted Mathanga, who is also a commissioner of the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), prosecuted for allegedly giving false information, contrary to Section 14 (a) of the Corrupt Practices Act (CPA).
The memo also recommended that Nkhono and Kandapo be prosecuted under Section 63 (1) of the CPA as read with Section 63 (2) of the Public Procurement Act.
The suspects are on bail.
Besides, the memo indicated that the complaint received indicated that the goods were supplied without proper documentation and that procedures were not followed, a development that led to the resignation of then Escom director of finance Betty Mahuka.
In recent years, Escom has been entangled in numerous challenges, including toxic debts and alleged corrupt practices that have in turn crippled operations and dented the power utility’s image.
In October 2018, it was revealed that Escom offered contracts to companies not registered with the Registrar General and avoided clearance from the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority by splitting procurement deals.