Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu yesterday admitted that a Kenyan company duped the government out of $48 000 (about K36 million) in an agreement in which it was supposed to install a new lift in the control tower at Kamuzu International Airport (KIA).
Chitipa South parliamentarian, Werani Chilenhga, who is also chairperson of the Natural Resources and Climate Change Committee, brought the issue to light in Parliament when he asked a question to the Minister of Justice under Standing Order 69.
Chilenga told the House that he had it on good authority from officials from the Ministry of Transport, that from 2014, the government through the Department of Civil Aviation, paid the sum of $48 000 to the Kenyan company (name unknown) without any works being carried out.
“The company has vanished and all efforts to trace it have proved futile. The Ministry of Transport confirmed this. I would like to seek clarifications from the minister: are these not Malawians who formed a company just to steal from the government?”
Chilenga asked the minister what the ministry was doing about the issue and to furnish the House with a full report preferably before the House rises.
In his response, Tembenu admitted that a contract was signed in 2011 for the supply and installation of a lift in the control tower after the old one malfunctioned.
He said the contract was between the Department of Civil Aviation and the Kenyan company but the information he had did not indicate that the company had local directors.
“When the department acquired funding to replace the lift, it wanted to cooperate with the Japanese manufacturer Mitsubishi, but it was the manufacturers who referred the Department of Civil Aviation to an agent in Kenya and that’s how they ended up dealing with the company.
“Prior to that, there was no relationship between the two,” Tembenu said.
The minister said the Attorney General was locating the company, which has since disbanded and stopped doing business.
He further disclosed that when queried, Mitsubishi said they had dealt with all contracts before them and the supply to KIA through the Kenyan agent was not one of them.
“It is our hope that the company will be found and dealt with accordingly,” he said.
But these assurances fell on deaf ears as some members of Parliement were heard calling out ‘liftgate’ or ‘another Chaponda’ in reference to the Zambia maize procurement saga.
Rumphi East MP Kamlepo Kalua informed the House that he had information that the final payment was made last year, wondering why no due diligence was made or investigations made on whether the company was genuine or bogus.
But Tembenu said the company was referred to Civil Aviation by the manufacturers and initial suppliers of the lift, so there was no reason to doubt the business transaction then.
“The officials from the company came to inspect the specifications and said there were some aspects lacking and they needed to inform Mitsubishi about the correct equipment to be installed. If the company is insolvent, we will file claim. There is no need to be despondent,” Tembenu said, to boos from the members.