Fiscal Police have launched investigations into a K17 million contract the Higher Education Students Loans and Grants Board (HESLGB) gave to a private firm.
National Police deputy spokesperson Thomeck Nyaude confirmed in a written response that Fiscal Police have launched a probe into HESLGB secretariat’s conduct and whether internal procurement procedures and the Public Finance Management Act were adhered to or whether there were any infringements of the Corrupt Practices Act.
“Yes I can confirm that the police have instituted investigations. Fiscal Police is a branch of detectives under the main body of the CID (Criminal Investigations Department [CID] and its mandated to investigate cases in as far as police work is concerned,” he said.
Meanwhile, the board has also embarked on a separate internal investigation on whether the contract was legitimately awarded and whether the contract sum legitimate or fraudulent.
According to a leaked payment voucher The Nation has seen, K17 165 126.00 was paid to EE&A Enterprise of P.O. Box 36022, Lilongwe 3 through cheque number 001780 signed by HESLGB chief executive officer Chris Chisoni and Emily Chawinga as authorising officer.
According to sources close to the matter, the move by police follows a recommendation by the board at an emergency meeting held last Friday at Mount Soche Hotel in Blantyre after the contract’s details were made public.
Circumstances of the case remain unclear at this stage, with both the board and Fiscal Police, asking for completion of the investigations before issuing a statement.
But The Nation understands the investigations surround the procurement and printing of forms and procurement of diaries which the board dispatches to universities across the country to facilitate loan applications.
At the meeting, one of the resolutions was that the board should launch an internal investigation and invite the police and other criminal agencies to look into the matter.
Chisoni also confirmed both the board’s emergency meeting and subsequent recommendation
However, he defended the expenditure, saying the contract’s sum was justified by the special features the forms bore which seek to curb fraud.
“We have done everything by the book but we will wait for the investigation which the board has instituted,” said Chisoni.
In an earlier interview, Minister of Education, Science and Technology Bright Msaka said the ministry was yet to be briefed on the matter but expect an investigation.
“I am yet to be briefed. I will inquire and respond later when we have been briefed,” said Msaka.
The procurement comes as several under-privileged students continue to struggle to obtain loans from the board due to inadequate funding, leading to last year to an intervention by President Peter Mutharika last year who ordered Treasury to increase funding.
Just this past week, it was disclosed in Parliament that 300 students from the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources risked withdrawing from studies due to lack of fees while on Saturday, The Polytechnic Alumni Association engaged Vice-President Saulos Chilima in a fundraising golf tournament for 85 needy students.
The K17 million is enough to pay for 21 first year generic students or 24 continuing generic students for two semesters. n