The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has stopped the Ministry of Energy from proceeding with the award of a multibillion kwacha contract for supply of materials for Malawi Rural Electrification (Marep) project amid corruption allegations.
In a statement signed by ACB principal public relations officer Egrita Ndala yesterday, the graft-busting body said the stop order followed complaints alleging irregularities and suspected corruption in the procurement process of the materials.
She said: “The ACB has instituted investigations into the matter. Following the restriction notice, the Ministry of Energy is, therefore, restricted from proceeding with award of contract until the ACB has concluded the investigation or lifted the restriction notice.”
When contacted for further details on the order, Ndala said the restriction notice meant that everything relating to the procurement has been stopped until the ACB lifts the order or gives fresh directions.
She said: “I can’t really state what will happen next, but a direction will be provided once investigations are done.”
Marep Phase 9 is expected to cost the taxpayer at least K20 billion. Last year, the Ministry of Energy floated tenders for the supply of various materials and the evaluation team spent about two months in Zomba scrutinising bids. However, the contracts have not yet been awarded.
Ministry of Energy sources allege that the delay in awarding of the contracts, which is the centre of ACB investigation, has delayed due to “some political interests on who should be awarded a contract”.
“In fact, when we were in Zomba for evaluations, the pressure started coming. I am not surprised that someone reported the matter to ACB,” claimed one source.
In an interview on Tuesday on developments in the energy sector, Minister of Energy Newton Kambala expressed concern over the delayed procurement process for Marep Phase 9.
He said: “As we speak, we have issues with Marep for procurement of materials which has taken over eight months without completion.
“I am now hearing that the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority [PPDA] has advised that we start all over again because that tender expired.
“I just heard about this. But when you try to intervene at an early stage, people say you are interfering in the procurement process.”
In recent months, the energy sector has been embroiled in procurement controversy. Three weeks ago, the ACB also stopped the award of fuel import contracts for the National Oil Company of Malawi (Nocma) amid Nocma’s fight with Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) over perceptions of corruption.
Marep started in 1980 under Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi as the implementing agency through donor financing. In 1995, the Government of Malawi took over implementation of the programme with the Department of Energy as the implementing agency.
By the end of phase eight, Marep had connected 1 127 sites to the national electricity grid. In the past 10 years, K80 billion has been invested in Marep.
The 2008 Energy Policy anticipated an increase in electricity coverage in Malawi to 30 percent by 2020. However, statistics show that about 12 percent of the population has access to electricity.