Some employees at the taxpayer-run Private Hire Vehicle Services (PVHES) department have accused top management of corruption and mismanagement of funds leading to government failure to fund operations of the department.
PVHES, formerly known as Private Vehicle Hire Organisation (PVHO), is a government mechanical and engineering department that hires out and repairs construction and engineering equipment, and also operates inspection services.
But exclusive interviews with Nation on Sunday during the week, some PVHES employees revealed that morale is very low in the department as most operations have come to a halt and some equipment has become obsolete due to lack of resources.
Apart from unexplained failure to provide funding, employees cite alleged management-sanctioned illegal sales of government vehicles in the custody of the department as, among others, as breeding a culture of corruption at the department.
While confirming the department was struggling to fund its regional and district offices, in an interview on Wednesday, PVHES director Jomo Mkandawire pushed the blame to region offices, saying they were not collecting enough funds.
“Mind you, we are a Treasury-funded department, which means we do not receive any funding from government. The money we collect is deposited to account number one and treasury gives us back part of the money for operations. So, ask your sources if they are collecting enough money,” said Mkandawire.
He said for months the department has not been collecting enough funds. And he, just like the employees, Jomo cited corruption as one of the reasons contributing to low collections.
However, Mkandawire refused to disclose the figures collected by the regions and also dismissed assertions that management was involved in any corrupt activities.
“Those [people] claiming to be underfunded are lazy people who are resisting change. I have attempted to fight corruption because this is the reason the institution is struggling to raise funds,” he said.
One of the workers—speaking on strict condition of anonymity—said the regional office was told by headquarters three years ago that
it would be receiving 20 percent of the revenue it generates to support its operations, but does not receive any money.
He said the workers suspect officials at the headquarters are plundering the resources; hence, the general killing of work ethic at the regional and district offices.
“This office can generate close to K50 million a month, but we have not been funded in a long time. Our allowances are not paid and when we ask why, headquarters says it is servicing old debts. Everyone knows they are stealing money,” adds the employee.
Another employee, who insisted that the reason of opening up on the matter is because the workers want change, said most of the theft and abuse of PVHO by staff happens in the hiring department.
“When we have received private customers who want to hire a grader or any of our equipment, staff can agree with the person to out hire the equipment without logging the details. In so doing, government is missing out on a lot of revenue. Hiring a grader, for example, can cost K500 000 a day and if it is hired for a week, that is a lot of money,” he said.
Some of the employees revealed that the workers at some point wrote an open letter to the Ant-Corruption Bureau (ACB) copied to Inspector General of Police, Secretary for Transport and Public Works and the Chief Secretary to the Government, about rampant corruption at the department.
The letter, undersigned as by ‘Lilongwe concerned PVHES’, which Nation on Sunday saw, draws government and investigating agencies’ attention to alleged theft of vehicles and other items through auctions by under valuating prices and has names of people suspected to be involved in the malpractice.
During Nation on Sunday’s visits to PVHES Lilongwe office, we saw overgrown bushes, run down equipment and decaying offices, all which employees say is a testimony of the state of the department’s current woes.
ACB senior public relations officer Egritta Ndala said, in regard to employees’ concerns over controversy surrounding sale of vehicles by tender, the Bureau provided guidelines on how the department should proceed with the sale and report to it after the exercise.
“The Anti-Corruption Bureau has been conducting Anti-Corruption sensitisation programmes with staff of PVHO in Lilongwe and Blantyre. It intends to reach out to staff in Mzuzu. After the sensitization exercise, the Bureau plans to conduct system reviews to identify areas which need to be strengthened,” said Ndala.
She expressed hope that on-going reforms in government would facilitate improvements in how the department operates and fight corruption.
Principal Secretary for reforms, Nwazi Nthambala, also said the department needs to undergo same reforms as part of broader reforms of the transport sector. n