Investigations into Be Forward Wanderers’ TNM Plc airtime dealership has exposed a K124 million financial mess at the Blantyre-based football power house.
The report by the committee set up to investigate the deal has implicated club general secretary Mike Butao and others.
Wanderers entered into a dealership with TNM in 2014 and has up to date paid K110 million into the TNM account.
However, the proceeds from the sales were never remitted to the club after the airtime was collected by Butao and other individuals identified as Frank Liver, a Mr. Samata and R. Mwale, according to delivery notes from TNM’s Limbe warehouse.
Under the agreement, Wanderers, whose dealer code is 20MIG21, were expected to purchase TNM products on agreed discount and resale them at a profit.
For five years, Wanderers was depositing funds into their TNM dealership account for the purchase of airtime, but not a single tambala was remitted to the club.
The Nomads found themselves in trouble as they continued paying TNM under instructions from Butao, without proceeds being ploughed back to the club.
The club launched investigations into the matter and a report we have seen points at Butao as having benefitted from the funds and the club has lost K124 million.
Reads the report: “On monthly basis there is always pressure to pay TNM. The general secretary would communicate that the sponsor would be angry if the TNM payment is not honoured and this would jeopardise the sponsorship agreement.
“There are some months when the sponsorship money is not enough to cover monthly salaries [for players], consequently we are forced to borrow money at 50 percent interest rate just to finance TNM payments.
“We failed to pay TNM in May and June 2019 because the sponsors’ money was not enough to cover both club salaries and TNM payments. We could not borrow anymore because our debts are exorbitant.”
When Butao was summoned to explain why the club was paying TNM monthly, the general secretary is quoted as having said that the payments to TNM were meant to refund TNM for bonuses that the company pays through Mpamba to Be Forward Japan Limited’s Malawian customers, who successfully persuaded prospective customers into buying cars from the Japanese company.
Butao also reportedly denied existence of an airtime dealership agreement with TNM and that the payments were not for airtime business.
But when Wanderers went to verify with TNM, they learnt that the account existed with Butao, marketing officer Steve Pelemeza and late chairperson George Chamangwana as signatories on behalf of the club while Protazio Nthethe and Willem Swart signed on behalf of TNM.
“On the claim by the general secretary that the money Wanderers pays TNM on monthly basis is meant to refund TNM for the bonuses that the company pays through Mpamba to Be Forward Japan Limited Malawian customers who successfully persuade prospective customers into buying cars from the company, TNM officials denied Butao’s claim.
“TNM deals directly with Be Forward Japan Limited and nobody in Malawi transacts on behalf of TNM. TNM income control department invoices Be Forward Japan directly and Be Forward Japan pays TNM in dollars through telegraphic transfer into TNM bank account in Malawi.
“TNM showed all the documentation relating the payments from Be Forward Japan Limited. These include; invoices to Be Forward Japan upon requesting for funds; e-mail communications with Be Forward Japan officials, telegraphic dollar payments that they receive from Be Forward Japan for the said arrangement,” the report reads further.
But TNM confirmed the airtime dealership account with Wanderers and that cash deposits made to TNM’s through their NBS account is at K110 174 305.99 since 2014.
Through the dealership the club earned benefits and incentives credited to the account amounting to K14 564 129.64.
The total value of transactions in the account which represent airtime collected between 2014 and 2019 stands at K124 738 435.63.
When asked how the transactions happened under his watch, the club’s treasurer Robert Mbeza said in an interview on Sunday that it was difficult to know that the club was being defrauded.
“Every month Butao would issue instructions for the payment to be made. Cheques would be drawn and signed by authorities then the money would be deposited into the TNM account.
“There was no reason to suspect that something was wrong since the GS insisted that it was the sponsors paying TNM,” he said.
The committee which investigated Butao has since recommended that the club should take action against the culprits to recover the money.
“We recommend that the chairperson should take appropriate action to ensure that fraudulent activities should stop and the money lost should be recovered,” reads the report dated July 18 and co-signed by Mbeza, second vice-chairperson Hubert Mfune and vice-chairperson Allan Chuma.
Wanderers chairperson Gift Mkandawire said he was yet to read the report.
“I have not yet seen the report. I can only comment after seeing and understanding it,” he said.
In an interview yesterday, Wanderers Club trustees’ chairperson Rashid Gaffar said they were handling the matter.
“We are still looking into that matter, so as of now I can’t say much,” he said.
Butao, on the other hand, insisted that sponsors Be Forward Japan cleared him of wrong doing.
“When this issue came out, I wrote the sponsors and they issued a statement which cleared me,” he said.
TNM public relations and sponsorship manager Limbani Nsapato yesterday said TNM’s stance on the matter was as is in the club’s report.