President Lazarus Chakwera has avoided commenting on the alleged political interference in the awarding of oil supply contracts at National Oil Company of Malawi (Nocma) by some senior officials within the Tonse Alliance administration.
The President’s executive assistant Sean Kampondeni told journalists yesterday ,during the weekly media briefing at Sanjika Palace in Blantyre, that the President would not say anything to avoid prejudicing the matter which the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) is probing.
Two senior government officials and a partner in the Tonse Alliance are being implicated of exerting pressure on Nocma management to award contracts to some companies to supply oil.
The matter was revealed through a leaked letter written by Nocma deputy chief executive officer Hellen Buluma to ACB complaining about the alleged attempts by the three to interfere in the deals.
In her letter dated November 16 2020, Buluma, who was recently acted as CEO for the State-owned oil company, named Minister of Energy Newton Kambala, Chakwera’s adviser on strategy Chris Chaima Banda and Alliance for Democracy (Aford) president Chakufwa Chihana.
But Kampondeni said yesterday Chakwera would not comment since the matter was presented to the ACB.
He said: “The matter has been reported to ACB. So, once the inquiry is concluded and a report is presented to the President with facts, then he will determine what course of action to take, if any.”
Kampondeni, who is also State House director of communication, observed that the complaint to ACB had made serious allegations against a State House official, a Cabinet minister and an alliance partner who all have direct links to Chakwera.
The executive assistant also defended Chakwera’s recent engagement of the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, arguing government would not spend any money on the service.
According to Blair’s website, the institute is looking to set up a new project to support the government of Malawi to strengthen its delivery and implementation mechanisms.
“This is likely to include a delivery function in State House, but also potentially support other parts of the presidency such as communications and international affairs,” reads the information on the website.
While touting the move, Kampondeni said the institute would assist Chakwera’s office to install a delivery unit that will enable him to address capacity deficiencies within the government machinery.
He said ever since Chakwera took office, he and his team have been conducting a full scale assessment of various governance institutions across the State machinery and have determined incompetence issues in multiple institutions.
“There are issues of unprofessionalism, incompetence and people occupying positions they are not qualified for, among others, so one of the things President Chakwera has put on his agenda is to set up a delivery unit that diagnoses capacity deficiencies in the State machinery so that his Cabinet, advisers and staff can address the gaps,” said Kampondeni.
He stressed that Blair has committed to provide the service at no cost to the taxpayer.
“So these people are here committed to assist the country and the President is welcoming any help from any experts who are willing to do so without taking advantage of the taxpayer money and Malawian people. The President is fully persuaded that these people, a team of three, who are currently in the country are committed to assisting him deliver his agenda.
“The institute has not set any agenda and do not decide what the focus of the administration is. It is the President who sets the agenda and engages them to provide specifically those issues which are of value addition to the process that’s being taken,” said Kampondeni.
This is the second time government is engaging the Blair Institute after former President Joyce Banda also engaged it in 2012 to provide a similar service.
This has led some critics to question the relevance of the institute, arguing despite their engagement in 2012, the Joyce Banda administration suffered serious loot of public funds named Cashgate.
But Kampondeni defended the institute saying in 2012 the focus was on providing a performance metric at the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) at Capital Hill which is still being utilised to provide various performance metrics across the public sector.
On the mess currently facing the Affordable Inputs Programme presidential press secretary Brian Banda said Chakwera was aware of the challenges and experts were working to rectify them.
Banda, however, said there are several success stories about the programme compared to the abolished Farm Input Subsidy Programme.