Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) consumer affairs and public relations manager Fitina Khonje has testified in a case where her former boss Collins Magalasi and three others are accused of awarding contracts dubiously to Vink Enterprises.
The company, which belongs to Dorothy Shonga Nkhoma who is also Magalasi’s business partner, was awarded contracts to supply Mera with strategic plan booklets, Mera-branded cloth and T-shirts.
However, the contracts are suspected to have flouted procurement procedures as the contract sum was inflated in the supply of the cloth.
When the Lilongwe Magistrate’s Court sat on Tuesday to hear witnesses in the fraud and money laundering case against Magalasi, Nkhoma, Mera public relations officer Patrick Maulidi and Mera procurement officer Bright Mbewe, senior assistant chief State advocate Dzikondianthu Malunga asked Khonje to demonstrate how the contracts were awarded.
Khonje told the court that she was sidelined in decisions regarding the procurement of 600 booklets for strategic plan, 8 000 metres Mera-branded cloth and T-shirts, adding she would only realise that delivery of the materials had been done.
In the case of the 600 booklets, she told the court that they were supplied by Vink Enterprises, whose process started in 2019 and the request was made by Maulidi and approved by Magalasi at a cost of about K15 million.
Khonje stated that when she asked Maulidi to provide specifications for procurement, he never did.
She was then forced to provide specifications only to learn later, through one of Maulidi’s emails, that a designer had already been identified and 600 booklets were later delivered.
On the cloth, she said the arrangement was that the 8 000 metres budgeted at K16 million was to be used at the launch of Mera offices and some pieces were to be given to other stakeholders as promotion.
She said Maulidi sought approval to procure the cloth and Magalasi approved it.
“Evaluation took place, but I was later surprised that the value of the cloth had been put at K36 million, excluding tax,” said Khonje.
She said she engaged the director of finance Zachariah Nkhoma to inform him of the development so that he should have a critical look at the figures as the amount was too high for the cloth expected.
Khonje told the court that the director of finance also queried where the money would come from.
She said Mbewe told her that during evaluation, Maulidi advised that in past procurements, quantities for other materials were being scaled down to save money for the cloth. Maulidi later provided her with designs for the cloth and when she asked that some changes be made he never provided her with feedback.
However, Khonje was later informed by an administrative assistant in the public relations division that the cloth had been delivered to Mera. The cloth was supplied by Vink Enterprises.
When she asked Maulidi why he did not inform her about the cloth, he allegedly replied that he forgot.
A similar process also happened in the procurement of the T-shirts. She asked Maulidi and another
After Khonje testified, one of the defence lawyers Andy Kaonga sought an adjournment to prepare for cross-examination.
He said some issues that Khonje said were not in the witness statement that was part of disclosures and there was need to prepare for that.
Chief resident magistrate Patrick Chirwa granted the adjournment to allow the defence to discuss with the suspects issues that were not disclosed earlier.
The case will continue today for cross-examination and hearing.