Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has dared the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA) for its failure to blacklist alleged distrustful companies as directed by President Lazarus Chakwera.
The rights body has further demanded, within seven days, a tender valuation report following an alleged suspicious awarding of contract to a Lilongwe-based company to supply personal protective equipment (PPE) to Central Medical Stores Trust (CMST) through a restricted tender.
In its demand letter to PPDA, dated May 13 2021, the human rights group, through Kawelo Lawyers, is surprised that since Chakwera directed the authority to blacklist all companies involved in the alleged abuse of Covid-19 funds on April 18 this year, there has been no action on the matter.
Said Chakwera in his order: “The law empowers the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority to enforce the government’s compliance with procurement laws and procedures. I, therefore, call on this institution to do its job with a sense of urgency, including ensuring that all companies named in this audit report for defrauding Malawians, as well as the individuals who direct those companies, are debarred from supplying goods, works, and services to government forthwith.”
But HRDC wondered why the PPDA has not publicly issued a report on whether the directive had been complied with; hence, seeking the information as per their right under Section 37 of the Constitution as read with the Access to Information Act of 2017.
“Our client, therefore, would like to find out whether this directive has been complied with and the list of the blacklisted companies,” reads part of the letter.
HRDC is further demanding PPDA to provide the tender valuation report on an alleged K600 million contract purportedly awarded to Stallion Investment to supply PPE to CMST.
HRDC alleges in the letter that through its whistle-blowing line it received reports of the suspicious award of contract through a restricted tender.
“Our client has received reports, from well-meaning Malawians, that there may be a possibility that the said Stallion Investment has been awarded a tender to supply PPE (personal protective equipment) to Central Medical Stores through a restricted tender worth about K600 million.
“There are allegations, according to the report, of a possibility that the tendering process did not follow procurement laws. In any case, if our client’s request is not met within seven days, our client’s next course of action will be taken without any reference to you, whatsoever.
“Be advised that if the above information is not voluntarily submitted to our client, we have instructions to seek court redress to compel your organisation to furnish our client with the sought-for information. This letter may be produced before a court of law to claim costs in the event that PPDA chooses not to cooperate,” reads the letter signed by Kawelo Lawyers managing partner Wesley Mwafulirwa.
Both Mwafulirwa and HDRC chairperson Gift Trapence confirmed, in separate interviews, issuing the letter on the Presidential directive to blacklist some companies.
“We want also to get information on the procurement of masks at Central Medical Stores. That will be used to verify information that we got through whistle-blowing initiative for us to make informed decision,” said Trapence.
PPDA assistant director Timothy Kalembo said yesterday, his office received the letter on Thursday, but declined to divulge the authority’s position on the matter, referring Weekend Nation to the spokesperson Grace Thipa, who said she needed more time to check the records at the office.
But Stallion Investment director Rashid Sattar, when contacted on the alleged contract, said he was not aware that he was awarded a contract to supply PPE to Central Medical Stores, but confessed submitting his tender documents on the same.
Governance and social commentators Boniface Chibwana and Moses Mkandawire said whatever the President says becomes a policy direction for the country, and the people involved just need to follow and implement such directives.
“When the President speaks, it becomes a policy directive, meaning the relevant offices directly involved in whatever the President was making reference to, are supposed to act on,” said Chibwana who is also national coordinator of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace. “So, in that case, we need to see compliance from those relevant offices because the President had given a directive and is the last authority,”
On his part, Mkandawire said what was happening in the country was frustrating because after the President directive, what was required for the institutions and individuals was to put it into effect, especially considering that the matters were addressing concerns of Malawians.
“I know they would want to take the due process of the law, but when the President said the companies must be blacklisted, it automatically became part of the law because it was a policy issue at highest level.
“If we don’t see any action, it will be important that Malawians should create that kind of anger against those institutions and individuals that are failing to act on the President’s directive.
“The issue of corruption and fraud shouldn’t just be rhetoric because at the end of the day people will be saying the President is just making noise,” said Mkandawire who is chairperson of the National Anti-Corruption Alliance.