The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) is probing the National Aids Commission (NAC) under the Corrupt Practices Act for suspected irregularities in the award of a multi-million kwacha contract.
Following the probe NAC on November 24 2021 cancelled the contract it already awarded to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), NAC corporate services and public relations officer Karen Msiska confirmed in a written response.
“ACB contacted NAC, requesting documentation for this procurement and we accordingly submitted the full procurement file to ACB.”
The contract, with reference number NAC/2021/AUD/NCB/CS/01 and worth over K38 million, involves consultancy services for the supply, installation, training and provision of support services for the commission’s internal audit management software.
NAC invited bidders to submit Expressions of Interest (EOI) for the services in October 2020 but the process to identify a successful bidder and award the contract was only concluded in June last year.
After evaluating the EOI, the commission shortlisted three consultants—PwC, National Integrated Technologies Limited and Unified Technologies Limited—and invited them to submit their technical and financial proposals.
The commission’s internal procurement and disposal committee (IPDC) eventually approved the awarding of the contract to PwC following its evaluation meeting held on June 7 2021.
However, before finalising the process of awarding the contract to the alleged successful bidder, ACB pounced on the commission, demanding all documents relating to the contract.
In its ‘Notice to Produce or Furnish Documents’, under case number CR/LL2669/2021, ACB gave the commission’s acting chief executive officer Andrew Gonani 72 hours to act on its demands.
“Take notice that I require you to produce or furnish me within 72 hours of service of this notice with all original documents or certified true copies of all documents as specified hereunder which are in your possession or under your control and which the Anti-Corruption Bureau considers necessary for the conduct of an investigation into an alleged or suspected offence under the Corrupt
Practices Act,” reads the notice dated November 2021.
A schedule issued by the bureau lists nine procurement documents for the contract.
These are advertisement for the procurement of the contract, minutes of IPDC, list of responsive bidders, bid documents from the bidders, internal audit report covering the period of procurement and bid documents with contract specifications.
Others are the contract signed between NAC and PwC, letter from the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA) granting ‘no objection’ for NAC to award the contract to PwC and an evaluation report.
The launch of ACB’s investigations also resulted in the commission cancelling on November 24 2021 an advert for invitation to bidders to submit EOI for the consultancy services published on October 31 2020.
“In the process of finalising the contract award in September, 2021 … one of the bidders lodged a complaint to NAC in writing that they were informed that one of the bidders submitted their bid late. Since NAC is a public entity and its procurement processes are guided by the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Act, the office arranged a meeting with the bidder to hear them.
“Considering that the office had to institute an investigation in order to resolve the complaint in line with Section 25 (2d) of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Act, on November 15 2021 the IPDC resolved to cancel the procurement proceeding and restart it in the interest of the public,” Msiska explained.
He said the cancellation was also in accordance with Section 46 (b) of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Act.
PwC, a multinational professional services network of firms operating as partnerships under the PwC brand, closed their Malawian business effective July 1 2021 and sold it to a local audit company.
Commenting on the issue, procurement specialist Phillip Kamangira observed that the way the contract was handled smacked of “some kind of corrupt practices being involved.”
“Overriding the principles of procurement is an offence. So two things must happen; those that were involved in the management of decisions should be investigated and also the alleged successful bidder must be investigated because for a company that closed operations in the country and today is privileged to be awarded a contract leaves a lot of questions,” he said.
Kamangira who is also executive director of Centre for Mindset Change said by cancelling the whole deal the integrity of the commission had been compromised as the move created room for speculations that are attached to corruption.
“Further, the resources NAC used during the whole process including evaluation have gone down the drain. Above all, premature termination or cancellation of projects is naturally unhealthy,” he said.
PwC associate director Moffat Ngalande was the contact person for the firm during the time NAC awarded the contract but for five weeks he has not responded to our questionnaire despite promising to do so.