Police Service Commission (PSC) says it has not acted on senior police officers named in the K2.7 billion Malawi Police Service (MPS) food rations deal because it has not received any report on the matter for action.
In a response dated October 21 2018 to a query from Youth and Society (YAS) on progress on the issue, PSC secretary Blessings Chilabade said the commission would not take any action as of now because neither Inspector General Rodney Jose nor the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has reported the matter.
During its meeting in Lilongwe on Saturday, the commission resolved to wait for the outcome of a re-opened ACB query which would inform its decision.
Reads the letter in part: “During the meeting, the commission observed that it had not received any official report on the matter, either from the Inspector General of Police or the Anti-Corruption Bureau. It was, therefore, not possible for the commission to consider disciplinary proceedings against any police officer on the matter.
“The commission has information that further investigations are being conducted by the ACB on the matter. Once the investigations are completed and an official report is submitted to the commission, the commission will consider any action that may be appropriate in line with the Police Act .”
YAS sought action on the police officers as recommended in a leaked ACB investigation report dated November 2017 which indicated that the contract price to the food rations supplier, Pioneer Investments Limited of Zameer Karim, was inflated within days of signing the contract by K466 million from K2.327 billion to K2.793 billion allegedly due to exchange rate losses which the ACB report said was unjustifiable.
The increase followed a letter Karim wrote to MPS director of finance Innocent Bottoman, now Central Region Police Commissioner, on August 10 2015 to request a 20 percent contract hike, citing depreciation of the kwacha as a basis.
The ACB report accuses Bottoman of violating Public Procurement Regulation 132 and 155 as read together with the Public Procurement Act which, among others, states that “unless otherwise provided in the procurement contract, the price of a procurement contract is considered to be a fixed price when the price may not be modified in response to changes in economic or commercial conditions”.
The report also shows that Karim deposited K145 million into a governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) account at Standard Bank whose sole signatory is President Peter Mutharika.
DPP, amid pressure from the public and governance institutions, pledged to pay back the money it earlier justified as a donation to its office building project.
The commission’s position has disappointed Mzuzu-based YAS, whose executive director Charles Kajoloweka has since accused the PSC of being an accomplice to the criminal breaches of its officers.
In its demand letter to PSC chairperson, High Court judge Charles Ching’anya Mkandawire dated September 7 2018, YAS argued that since the leakage of the ACB investigation report that exposed the deal, it had not heard of any disciplinary action against the mentioned officers.
Section 155 (3) of the Constitution and sections 13 and 14 of the Police Act mandate PSC to take disciplinary action against all police officers, except the IG.
In an interview yesterday, Kajoloweka said by not taking action, the commission is tolerating impunity which is not only disturbing, but also a reckless betrayal to the country.
He said: “It is such indecisiveness by responsible authorities that undermines the fight against corruption and impunity in the public service. It is an insult for officers directly implicated in the scam to continue occupying public offices before being cleared by competent authorities.
“They must be forced to step aside until cleared. As an institution, we will escalate our engagement in holding the Police Service Commission accountable for its blatant failure to act on its clear mandate.”
In an earlier interview with our sister newspaper Weekend Nation, Bottoman described the issue as ‘witch-hunting’.
He said: “My signature was forged and I do not know who did it and for what purpose. What I know is that government told the company to reimburse part of the money. But, like I said, some people within the system have an agenda against me. But I cannot explain further than that.”
YAS is also involved in a legal battle with DPP and Karim over the deal.