The public might have exerted pressure that led Escom to change tune on a contract to demolish its building, but Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has said cancellation of the K675 million contract is not enough.
The activists who, through their lawyers, wrote Escom to cancel the contract, yesterday demanded suspension of Escom chief executive officer (CEO) Allexon Chiwaya and procurement manager to pave the way for investigations into the matter.
HRDC deputy chairperson Gift Trapence said, in an interview yesterday, the developments give credence to what the public has always feared, that there is “too much” corruption at Escom; hence, their demands to have the two suspended to allow thorough investigations.
But Escom board chairperson Thomson Mpinganjira said, in an interview yesterday, that Escom, just like any other public institution, will follow what corporate governance demands.
Mpinganjira, who refused to bow to such demands, said: “Escom will do what it is required to be done under corporate governance. We don’t take instructions from outsiders.”
Escom on Friday bowed to protests and demands that many Malawians raised on social media platforms and other media channels, including newspapers, over the organisation’s intention to award the contract.
In the HRDC demand letter, dated April 25 2019, lawyer Wesley Mwafulirwa told Escom CEO that his clients were suspecting corruption and asked if the organisation was under any pressure from politicians.
The lawyer wrote that HRDC had instructed him to demand suspension of the contract and in the event that Escom was not going to respond by April 29 [tomorrow], they were to seek legal redress and report the matter as a criminal case prosecution.for investigation and possibly
Chiwaya, in response to the public outcry, said in a statement issued Friday that the contract was not yet awarded and backed by Section 46(b) of the Procurement Act, Escom resolved to cancel the procurement proceedings with immediate effect.
He said the Act provides for cancellation of procurement proceedings in the public interest.
“The concerns raised are being addressed and the general public shall be informed of any development to that effect,” reads the statement in part.
Escom got a ‘No Objection’ which it sought from Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA) to award the K675 million to Irrigwater and Mining Equipment to take down Escom House, which was burnt by fire in October 2013.
The contract raised eyebrows following claims that some companies that offered lower bids were left out.
But in the statement issued Friday, Chiwaya said all procurement procedures were followed, including placement of the notification in the newspapers, which was meant to ensure transparency and accountability in the procurement process prior to any contract award as required by the Act.
“On April 24 2019, Escom issued a notification of intention to award a contract to Irrigwater and Mining Equipment at a contract sum of K675 million to demolish the burnt Escom House.
“It was on July 26 2018 that an advert for the International Competitive Bid was issued,” reads the statement.
Through various social media platforms, engineers, and ordinary Malawians alike, gave mixed reactions with some raising eyebrows, suggesting the cost could have been less.
Mpinganjira earlier on Wednesday justified the cost in an interview with our sister newspaper, The Nation, saying the exercise required the contractor to ferry in equipment from South Africa. Besides, he said there was no local expertise to demolish the building.