The Blantyre Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday resumed hearing the Immigration Department and Citizenship Services procurement contracts case against businessperson Abdul Karim Batatawala and three others.
Batatawala is on trial alongside former Department of Immigration chief immigration officer Elvis Thodi, the department’s commissioner responsible for operations Fletcher Nyirenda and deputy director Limbani Chawinga.
During on Tuesday’s hearing, the defence cross-examined the second State witness, Edward Jeke, a procurement specialist.
The cross-examination followed examination-in-chief by Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) director general Martha Chizuma during the first hearing of the case on April 25 2022. During the examination-in-chief, Jeke argued that the contract was irregular.
But one of the defence lawyers Alexious Nampota argued that Batatawala’s contract with the Immigration Department was legal as such there was no need for his client to answer criminal charges.
He argued that the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) granted a no-objection of the contract, which meant there was nothing irregular about it.
Nampota further argued that after there were speculations that the contract was flawed and the government stopped it, the Attorney General paid Batatawala after government was sued for breach of contract.
This, he said, was a result of the Attorney General seeking views from all relevant government departments, including the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) and the Immigration Department itself following a court action brought forward by Batatawala.
Nampota said the Attorney General established that the contracts followed all procedures; hence, made the payment for breach of contract.
Jeke, however, maintained that the contract was irregular on the premise that there were certain documents that were missing. He said they include bidding documents, notification of contract and statement of requirement.
But Nampota availed some of the documents to Jeke in court to show that his client’s contract with the Immigration Department was regular and that it followed all the right procedures as per restricted tendering method.
However, Jeke consistently maintained that the contracts were wrong as the documents brought before him were not available to him.
As the hearing was in progress, Nampota brought to the attention of senior resident magistrate Martin Chipofya that the Attorney General was present in court and was passing notes to the prosecution team.
But Chizuma responded that the Attorney General was passing notes pertaining to a different matter. Hearing of the case then proceeded with another defence lawyer, Fostino Maere, cross-examining Jeke.
In his cross-examination, Maere said if the contract was irregular, the ODPP would not have given a no-objection as opposed to what he had earlier said during examination-in-chief that a new contract was supposed to be established.
The court later adjourned the hearing to today when more State witnesses will be paraded.