To keep their jobs, some Cabinet ministers lie or defend lies and half truths, and peddle mediocre. They imagine the level of poverty they would immediately plunge in if they tell the truth on an issue and then lose their mpando wonona (lucrative jobs) as the late Wadson Deleza once described the ministerial job. They would rather betray their conscience and integrity than be honest and miss the road to goodies. After all who eats conscience?
Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining, Bintony Kutsaira is one such person who has no scruples peddling lies to 17.5 million Malawians so that he can continue to put bread on the table. This week he weighed in on a matter from which he came out more scathed than exonerated. Kutsaira wanted to defend broad day light malfeasance that has all the makings and smell of fraud in the manner a consultancy contract was awarded to a firm that only exists in somebody’s head. He came with guns blazing to dispute claims that Kam’mwamba Coal-Powered Generation Company (KPGC) awarded a contract to Black & Veach.
In June last year, the ministry which Kutsaira is now heading, sought a ‘No Objection’ from the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets (PPDA), to award Black & Veach a contract to provide consultancy to KPGC. The contract amount was for a dizzying K7.8 billion. PPDA gave the No Objection because “the firm [Black & Veach] satisfied all requirements demanded by the legal framework in selecting the successful bidder”. This is according to PPDA director general Elias Hausi who confirmed “KPGC procurement came through our office”. For KPGC to settle for Black & Veach, one would think it did a due diligence on the entity. Otherwise without such how would it ensure it is dealing with a real firm and not a ghost one? Indeed how would anyone in his or her senses put K7.8 billion in the hands of a firm one cannot vouch for? But Kutsaira failed last week to show that Black & Veach is an American firm with a physical address.
KPGC was initially supposed to be financed with a loan from a Chinese financier China Gezhouba better known as Exim Bank. However, for no clear reasons, Government abandoned China Gezhouba and relocated the project to Energy Generation Company (Egenco) to implement the project with government as the sole financier. At the same time, Government dissolved KPGC. But this was not before KPGC had spent K1.3 billion on the proposed power plant. Hey! Wait a minute. What was KPGC? A smokescreen or a conduit for siphoning taxpayers’ money? How many KPGCs do we have? How would you create a company, fund it, let it go on a spending spree—K1.3 billion—overnight, then shut it down before the sun rises so that no one is held accountable for the embezzled money.
Yet, this is the narrative you get when Ministry of Energy spokesperson Sangwani Phiri, says “Egenco will start the project all over again because the previous implementer, KPGC, did not do anything on the ground and has nothing to hand over to the new implementer.” OMG! So what did KPGC use the K1.3 billion for? Kutsaira would have given a lot of honour and respect to himself and his office if he had come equipped with information to show how this happened.
More seriously, Kutsaira tries to trivialise the whole deal alleging KPGC canceled the contract with Black & Veach so no money was spent on the transaction. This is the same Kutsaira who has told us earlier that there was no contract. How does anyone cancel a contract which never was?
Supposing, on the other hand, Kutsaira really wanted to prove that there were no underhand dealings in regard to the manner the contract was awarded, and that indeed the contract was canceled, he should simply have brought documentary evidence to the press conference. I mean, you can’t say my hands are not blood stained, but I have nothing further to prove so when all evidence points in the opposite direction. And then expect everyone or anyone to believe you. Only your toddler can do that. Kutsaira should come again with proof.