Lilongwe City Council (LLC) on Thursday said the issue of falsified documents to change a plot from commercial purpose to light industry has been referred to the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) for investigation.
The council’s chief executive officer Charles Makanga disc2losed this when responding to our inquiry on a matter involving plot 2/653 in the commercial site where a milk processing plant has been constructed without the approval of the technical commitee of the council.
ACB spokesperson Egrita Ndala confirmed in a telephone interview yesterday that the bureau received the complaint and will act on it accordingly.
Said Ndala: “It is now being processed, it has to be reviewed. After the review, the committee will recommend action that should be taken and that action has to be endorsed by the deputy director general.”
But Makanga said he could not comment on the issue because it has already been referred to the Anti-Corruption Bureau for investigations.
LCC officials on Tuesday this week appeared before the Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Climate Change, where they were grilled on how Plot 2/653, initially designated as commercial, was changed to light industry on May 31 2017.
The plot in question is between Central Medical Stores Trust and Sana Food Court in Lilongwe. The original documents show that the land is designated for a warehouse and not a factory as is the case now.
According to the original designs of the plot, Reference Number 382-6-2015 dated July 30 2015, the Town Planning Committee granted permission to Dipak Trust to construct a fitment centre and an office block.
Using the same Reference Number 382-6-2015, the committee on May 31 2017 allegedly granted another permission for the construction of a milk processing plant on the same plot.
In an interview on Thursday, chairperson of the committee, Councillor Gibson Kamtondoli Nyirenda insisted that the decision to change the purpose of the land from commercial to light industry was not done individually, but with the blessings of the Town Planning Committee.
However, minutes of the committee meeting of May 31 2017, which we have seen, do not show that such an approval was made. But Nyirenda, who is Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) councillor for Chilinde 2 Ward, insists that perhaps the minutes were just misplaced.
According to him, the issue of allowing construction of the factory was brought before the committee as a supplementary matter, which he said might be the reason it does not appear in the minutes.
The councillor pushed the blame on the city’s deputy director of planning and development Hastings Mumba, whom he said is supposed to advise the town planning committee accordingly.
He said when the town planning committee appeared before the parliamentary committee on Tuesday this week, Mumba chose to remain quiet.
Said Nyirenda: “Mr Mumba is supposed to have advised the council and committee accordingly on this matter. But he didn’t do that although he attended the town planning committee meeting.”
But in a separate interview on Thursday, Mumba dismissed Nyirenda’s assertions, saying plans for the factory were never submitted to the technical committee and that it is only the chairperson (Nyirenda himself) who can explain how the plans were included on the town planning committee meeting.
Said Mumba: “I was not part of that meeting. There are competent people who advise the technical committee and they were there [in the meeting] and the issue of factory was not on the agenda on May 31 2017.
“In addition, town planners in my office have also never seen the plans for the factory. The people involved printed the approvals outside the city council system; so how does one advise on things when he is in the dark about them? The civic offices have also never received those drawings. As a secretariat, we don’t have records of those plans.”
Mumba further wondered who received the scrutiny fees from the factory owners on behalf of the council.
“My office has been advising both the council and the town planning committee for the past 15 years on a number of projects. What was so special about the milk processing plant to bypass the technical committee?” he asked.
Ministry of Lands officials told the meeting on Tuesday, that the land was indeed for commercial purposes, contradicting Nyirenda.
Managing director of Capital Dairy Industries Limited Mohsin Salim said on Thursday he did everything that he was advised to do by the city officials. He did not elaborate.
Lilongwe City Mayor Desmond Bikoko, who said he was outside the country, and only arrived on Wednesday, said he was yet to be briefed by the CEO on the matter.
But MP for Lilongwe City Central David Bisnowaty, who is also a member of the town planning committee, said there is a lot of mess at the council.
The lawmaker who said he was not present during the meeting that is said to have approved the construction of the milk factory, bemoaned the tendency of some councillors whom he accused of convening meetings when members known to be against an idea of a project are not available.
The technical committee at council level advises the town planning committee on whether plans for a building are suitable and feasible according to the overall plans of the town or city.