Despite the law prohibiting employees of a procuring and disposing public entity from bidding for its auctioned assets, Secretary for Health Dan Namalika and other officials have bought cars from their ministry in a public auction which Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe has described as illegal.
According to our findings, Namalika has bought himself two vehicles—a 15 tonner Iveco lorry registration MG870 AC and a Toyota Hilux D4D—031MG1836 at a value we could not independently verify.
In an interview with Nation On Sunday, while admitting to have bought the cars in question Namalika insisted that he had not done anything wrong and that the issue was being blown out of proportion as the cars were worn out and would cost him more money to have them function properly.
“If you are suspicious, report to the authorities. More information for you to write a good story. The Hilux had covered 300 000 kilometres, was a non-runner, [had] damaged injectors, [I] had to replace the pump etc. You also needed to know how much I have spent to get it back on the road. ..The value can be checked with PVHES [Plant and Vehicle Hire and Engineering Services ],and similarly the truck.
In fact, all details are at PVHES for the vehicles boarded off,” said Namalika.
According to the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets (PPDA) Act of 2017, employees and relatives of a disposing public entity are not allowed to participate in the auction.
“A procuring and disposing entity shall not enter into a procurement or disposal contract with its employee, or any close relative of any employee,” reads Section 35 of the new law.
The law particularly emphasises that all disposal proceedings should be conducted in a manner which promotes transparency, accountability and fairness, according to Section 38, which also provides alternative ways of disposing assets.
“Public assets shall be disposed of by open means such as disposal of public auction or tendering with sealed bids…a procuring and disposing entity may, upon obtaining prior approval from the Director General, use alternative means including (a) transfer the asset to another procuring and disposing entity; (b) destruction or writing off of the asset; (c) trade-in; or (d) conversion or classification of asset into another form”
Apart from Namalika, the list of other beneficiaries, according to our sources, ranged from drivers, a member of the Internal Procurement and Disposal Committee, a departmental head and a district health officer.
But when the officials were separately contacted, they referred the reporter to either the ministry’s spokesperson Joshua Malango or PVHES.
“Check with PVHO (PVHES). I know it’s been an on-going process across the country until headquarters since January, but PVHO can give you details,” said an offcer who also bought a vehicle.
When asked on whether this did not amount to conflict of interest and violation of the law, Namalika said he was a citizen of the country who equally have a right to benefit from such a sale.
But Minister of Health Atupele Muluzi said he was not aware of the present auction of cars save for one done last year which followed procedures.
When presented with details, Muluzi said the Ministry’s spokesperson or Principal Secretary were in a better position to answer.
The Ministry of Health spokesperson Joshua Malango said his ministry does not handle board offs.
“First and foremost the MoH [The Ministry of Health] does not control board offs, you may need to check with department which controls that, that is Ministry of Finance. The said vehicles were disposed of early this year. It was not a new board off but those people you have mentioned were finalising their process to get the vehicles e.g. paying of the money and taking the vehicles out of Capital Hill gates,” said Malango in a response to our questionnaire.
But Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe has stressed that employees of a disposing public entity are not expected to benefit from such disposal based on the PPDA Act which is currently in force.
Ministry of Transport spokesperson James Chakwera referred the matter back to Ministry of Health while spokerspoerson of PPDA Grace Thipa had not yet responded to our questionnaire as we went to the press.
“The people you have mentioned are not supposed to have those cars. The rules have changed according to the new procurement legislation that we have. But we will see about that,” said Gondwe who added that some officers could be taking advantage of the new law which is yet to fully operationalised.
According to the Public Finance Management framework, disposal of assets is approved by the Chief Secretary, Secretary to Treasury, Accountant General or a Controlling Officer of the disposing entity depending on the nature and value of Assets.
After the approval, valuation for vehicles is normally done by the PVHES.