Investigations into the diversion of K3 billion from the Price Stabilisation Fund (PSF) have heated up with Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) board sending on leave two senior bosses to pave the way for investigations.
Mera board vice-chairperson Felisia Kilembe confirmed in an interview yesterday that chief executive officer (CEO) Raphael Kamoto and director of finance Elias Hausi have been sent on leave.
She said director of electricity and renewable energy Welton Saiwa is acting as Mera CEO.
Said Kilembe: “They [Kamoto and Hausi] have not been suspended nor have they been sent on forced leave. It is a leave to pave the way for investigations.
“As I said earlier, there was an investigation team which was looking into the issues being alleged and this is one of the recommendations that have been made. This will ensure that there is no interference with investigations.”
The Mera board’s move comes barely one week after The Nation reported that Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe summoned board chairperson of Mera Bishop Joseph Bvumbwe and his Roads Authority (RA) counterpart Jackson Gomani to check progress on allegations of abuse of office at the two institutions.
During the interview yesterday, Kilembe also admitted that Mera is yet to refund the K3 billion into the PSF as ordered by Secretary to the Treasury Ronald Mangani in his letter dated May 19 2016.
In the letter, Mangani gave Mera three months to refund the money to the fund meant to cushion fuel consumers and importers from price changes and other shocks.
In March this year, our sister newspaper the Weekend Nation, revealed in an award-winning investigative story that Mera diverted K3 billion from the PSF to enable State produce trader Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) to buy maize.
In the wake of the development, Gondwe described the decision as illegal.
Subsequently, Mangani demanded a refund from Mera and immediate suspension as well as prosecution of key officers involved.
Last week, Gondwe, who hinted that the top bosses would be sent on leave this week, further said he had summoned the board chairpersons to ask why no action had been taken.
The minister lamented the slow progress, but said such demands from his office are a new way of doing business and that Treasury was facing resistance from civil servants.
He said: “This is something new. In fact, some civil servants are fighting against that. It is something new because it requires people to be sacked. That has not happened before in this country, but it will happen now and I can assure you.”
Kamoto could not be reached for comment as his phone went unanswered.
Gomani refused to comment on what action has been taken against RA CEO Engineer Trevor Hiwa, accused of awarding a K217 million contract in a World Bank-funded project to Infracom, a company in which he is said to have an interest.
Like in the case of Mera, Mangani also wrote RA board to discipline Hiwa.
Besides Mera and RA, there have also been reports of abuse of office and funds at the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) where government has since appointed a three-member panel to investigate the transactions.