Malawi Prison Service (MPS) has blown K100 million they did not have to procure machinery for purposes that are not the core business of the prison service.
MPS, which is now negotiating with Treasury for funding of a tipper and an excavator it acquired outside its budget, has attracted the wrath of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which wants the National Audit Office (NAO) to conduct a special audit on prison service, and the controlling officer to explain the procurement.
The Prison Service secured the machinery, it said will be used in sewer project at Mzimba Prison, without informing the Finance Ministry, a move Treasury also says is a violation of the Public Finance Management Act.
PAC chairperson Alekeni Menyani said MPS’ decision on the plants was unprecedented since government started implementing the programme-based budget.
“We will ask the Auditor General to conduct a special audit because there could be more of these [illegal transactions]. The Prison Service should have established a department for this [construction] and ask Parliament for funding of the department and the acquisition of the machinery. As it is, it is illegal and the controlling officer need to explain,” said Menyani.
Ministry of Finance spokesperson Alfred Kutengule told Nation on Sunday that the ministry was not aware of the MPS procurement of the tipper and excavator, which was not included in the MPS budget.
“Treasury does not fund an activity, it funds a vote and the controlling officer of the vote decides how the funds should be used in line with the budget.
“Regarding the matter you are asking about, Malawi Prison Service is better placed to comment on it. If they are discussing with Treasury, it means payment will not be made,” said Kutengule.
Section 87 of the Public Finance Management Act says a controlling officers who “commits or expends funds where there is no appropriation permitting such expenditure”, maybe suspended by the appointing authority without pay.
MPS public relations officer Smart Maliro confirmed in a written response that the plants’ cost was K101 190 000, but said the money has not yet been paid. He said the department was discussing with Treasury towards the purchase of the two plants.
Maliro said the purchase of the machinery was important for the construction of sewer ponds at Mzimba Prison, where the sewer system was in poor condition thereby posing a serious health risk not only to inmates and prison officers, but also to surrounding communities.
He added: “They could also be used for similar purposes in other prisons from now and over many years to come. Apart from construction of the sewer ponds, the two plants would also be useful in various constructionrelated projects and activities in the Malawi Prison Service,” Maliro said.
Maliro justified the acquisition by arguing that hiring the plants would be costly as demand for use would be increasing.
“The two [plants] would also benefit the department as they could be used for revenue generation to contribute towards the programme budget as required,” he said.
However, one prison authority familiar with Mzimba sewer construction said: “The procurement plan had no component of buying plant machinery. It was abnormal for prison to procure such kind of machinery because prison was not in construction business.”
The Office of the Department of Public Procurement (ODPP) to get a ‘No objection’ for the said their records show that MPS bought a tipper and a brick, block and paver making machine in 2016.
Director of Public Procurement Paul Taulo said the information presented to his office by the MPS indicated that the equipment was going to be procured under the development funding of projects.
“We believe that each PE [procurement entity] procures goods, services and works which are in tandem with its core business, a thing which is confirmed by their respective authorities approving the budgets,” said Taulo.
He said his office granted the ‘No objection’ to Malawi Prison on the basis that the procurement process followed by a PE was transparent, fair and accountable to all parties involved in the procurement.