Almost all security agencies under Ministry of Homeland Security appear to have been mired in procurement scandals, forcing the Tonse Alliance administration to institute new measures.
Minister of Homeland Security Richard Chimwendo-Banda, in an exclusive interview last Friday, said government will leave no stone unturned in clearing the rot that has characterised the country’s security institutions in the past years.
He said: “This government will ensure that there is value for money on all contracts under the ministry and, of course, in all other respective MDAs [ministries, departments and agencies] and that local firms and individuals are given priority to do business with government where necessary.”
Chimwendo-Banda pointed out that some suspicious contracts under his ministry are already under the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) radar, adding that the Attorney General (AG) will continue to review all running contracts and terminate those deemed not in the best interest of the country, and not duly done.
AG Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda last week terminated a multi-billion passport contract that government signed with Techno Brain in March 2019, arguing that the deal, signed by the then ruling Democratic Progressive Party, was fraught with irregularities.
According to the minister, from now onwards every government contract will have to pass through the AG’s office before being signed.
Said Chimwendo-Banda: “As for contracts that were already signed for and payments made then those are matters that ACB will be following up.”
Some of the scandals under his ministry include the K2.7 billion Malawi Police Service (MPS) food ration deal in which businessperson Zameer Karim and others are accused of money-laundering and conspiring to use a public officer for the advantage of Karim, trading as Pioneer Investments.
ACB is prosecuting the 2018 food rations case and trial started this year.
At Immigration Department, two suppliers—Africa Commercial Agency and Reliance Trading Company—are demanding a whooping K53 billion of taxpayers’ money for supplying uniform between 2009 and 2012,
The deal is said to be more than five times the agreed contract amount.
This week ACB arrested businessperson Abdul Karim Batatawala for alleged conspiracy to defraud the Malawi Government and Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services on suspicion of abuse of office in relation to procurement contracts for uniforms.
During the week, ACB also arrested the department’s former head Elvis Thodi and deputy director Limbani Chawinga allegedly for abuse of office, conspiray to defraud government, neglect of official duty and giving false information to a person employed in the public service.
Commissioner responsible for operations at the department Fletcher Nyirenda was also arrested in connection with the award of the contract to Batatawala.
Malawi Prison Services (MPS) also had its share of the rot as billions of public funds are feared to have been siphoned through dubious purchase of various materials from United Arab Emirates (UAE) between February 2019 and June 2020.
The materials purchased by Ministry of Homeland Security for the Prison Department, which were overpriced, included steel plates, cups, blankets, belts, underwear, shoes, caps, neckties and whistles.
So far, no one has been arrested in connection with the alleged scandal but reports show that ACB is probing the matter.
Commenting on the mess in security agencies, Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency (Csat) executive director Willy Kambwandira urged the Tonse Alliance administration to take procurement seriously as 70 percent of the national budget is spent on it.
He also stressed that there is need to promote open contracting in award of public contracts and that the new administration must take a bold step and review all contracts awarded by the previous regime.
Said Kambwandira: “All suppliers involved in malpractices must be blacklisted from providing services to government. But, above all, government must move to ensure that prosecutions of such cases are concluded within reasonable time.”