The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) director general Martha Chizuma has said investigations into the controversy-riddled fuel supply contracts at the National Oil Company of Malawi (Nocma) will be concluded in two weeks’ time.
Chizuma said this in an interview on Tuesday when she was asked on the progress of the investigations following a suspension the bureau effected on the State-run company on June 8.
Pursuant to its powers under Section 23 (1) of the Corrupt Practices Act, the ACB issued a restriction notice on the fuel supply contracts following numerous complaints it received alleging irregularities and corruption surrounding the process.
But Chizuma said progress has been made on the investigations and expressed optimism that they will indeed conclude them within two weeks.
She said: “I don’t think we will go beyond two weeks before the country knows the outcome of the investigations. But there has been good progress.”
Asked if there was a specific timeframe attached to the investigations, Chizuma said they are following the 90-day restriction order which they issued from June 8.
However, she said the bureau has been able to conduct the investigations within 60 days translating to two out of the three months intended.
The boards of Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) and Nocma management engaged in a bitter fight which led the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) to write the ACB to intervene.
The ACB’s intervention meant Nocma had no authority to issue the contracts which were scheduled to start on July 1.
In a separate interview on Wednesday, HRDC national chairperson Gift Trapence said Malawians are eagerly waiting for the ACB to publicly share the conclusion of the investigations.
He said: “The case has public interest and as such, HRDC will follow keenly on this matter.”
Nocma procures 50 percent of the country’s required fuel volumes. It is complemented by Petroleum Importers Limited (PIL), a consortium of private sector petroleum trading companies.
In an interview with The Nation two weeks ago, Mera spokesperson Fitina Khonje said alternative measures were put in place to avoid a fuel crisis following suspension of the contracts.
Among others, she said the regulatory energy body activated a waiver of the Strategic Fuel Reserves (SFR) which requires oil marketing companies to uplift 50 percent of their volumes from the reserves.
Said Khonje: “Nocma has also been allowed to uplift 10 percent contingency volumes from suppliers with whom Nocma has running contracts with. These waivers will be lifted when Nocma finalises its new fuel procurement processes.”
In a separate interview, PIL managing director Martin Msimuko said they, as partners in the fuel import industry with Nocma, had to factor in the shortfall that may be on the market to ensure security of fuel supply.
He said PIL is, therefore, importing enough fuel to cover any shortfall for the next three months.
In January this year, Mera board declined to approve Nocma’s application to award contracts to selected supported citing concerns of overpricing.