embroiled in a scandal after National Oil Company of Malawi (Nocma) deputy chief executive officer Hellen Buluma reported to ACB alleged attempts to interfere in awarding of oil supply contracts by senior government officials and one of the alliance partners.
In a leaked letter, dated November 16 2020, Buluma, who was recently removed as acting CEO of the state-owned oil company, named Minister of Energy Newton Kambala, presidential adviser on strategy Chris Chaima Banda and Aford president Enoch Chihana as officials who were allegedly exerting pressure on Nocma to award contracts to certain companies to supply oil.
ACB director general Reyneck Matemba yesterday confirmed to Nation on Sunday receiving the letter.
“We received the letter on Friday and we will follow up on the matter,” Matemba said.
Buluma yesterday asked for more time to comment on the matter, but in the letter she states that on September 17 2020, Nocma advertised fuel supply tender for 314.820 metric tonnes (MT) for 2020/2021 fuel supply and that between September 19 2020 to the date of the letter, Kambala, Chaima and Chihana had allegedly been meddling in the tender process with “intent to influence award of fuel supply contracts to specific suppliers.”
“Hon Kambala directly instructed me to only receive instructions from him regarding fuel supply procurement process, including the specific suppliers and volumes allocated to each and gave me names of four suppliers to whom I was instructed to award the fuel supply contract,” reads part of the letter.
The named suppliers are Orxy, Finergy, Trafigura and Sahara Energy, and Buluma further claims that Kambala asked her to meet Chihana to, allegedly, negotiate a contract for one of the suppliers.
On his part, Kambala dismissed any wrongdoing, saying he was approached by a group of suppliers who wanted to inquire about the oil business but he only referred them to Nocma as he was not in a position to provide the information they required.
Said Kambala: “I am yet to receive the allegations, apart from what is being posted on social media. It’s not confirmed that she has complained against me. I am very surprised. I haven’t been involved in any issue that could warrant me to be complained to the Anti-Corruption Bureau. I have seen some screenshots. The discussions are authentic. She lodged complaints against Chaima and Enoch Chihana.
“Fortunately, she told me that all the discussions were being recorded by her. She can share the information about what we discussed. When she was acting CEO, we started receiving inquiries from some bidders and I directed those people to Nocma because it was not my job. I told these people to call Nocma.”
Quizzed whether he was willing to resign to pave the way for investigations, Kambala said he would not cling to office if authorities and public deem that there is any evidence of Wrong doing.
“If the general public sees that what is circulating in social media warrants me to resign, I am more than happy to do so. I am serving Malawians. I am a businessperson, my bread is more buttered in business than politics, I joined politics to fight corruption. Hellen Buluma is against supervision,” added Kambala.
He said Buluma informed him that she was receiving threats from some officials in government, but Kambala said he does not believe the threats exist.
“I don’t believe it’s true that people were threatening her. I asked her, did she confront these people. She could’ve reported the people to police,” said the minister.
On his part, Chihana confirmed that he accompanied officials of Finegy Petroleum, which are his business partners, but only introduced the officials and never participated in their talks or pressured Buluma in any way.
Said Chihana: “On my side, I don’t know why she has reported me to ACB because what I did was a normal business process. I wanted to find out about the tender process. She has to tell us. Who was she expecting us to meet? The truth will prevail.”
Chaima yesterday refused to comment on the matter, saying he will wait for the ACB to approach him on the matter.
Said Chaima: “She has made a complaint to an institution. The nature of my job [demands that], I don’t comment. When I receive an official communication, I will make a comment.”
State House Press Secretary Brian Banda yesterday said State House will only comment when it has received official correspondence on the matter.
“We have seen the documents that are circulating, including the one you have shared with us, but we will only comment when we have seen the official documents,” said Banda.
The development will be a litmus test for President Lazarus Chakwera’s administration which swept to power in June this year on wave of euphoria amid pledges to fight worsening corruption which became endemic under predecessor governments