According to the Weekend Nation of Saturday 16 June 2012, six companies have sued the Malawi Government
for failing to pay them MK4.7 billion (about US$18.8 million) for various supplies, comprising mainly of police uniforms and riot equipment.
The companies are:
1. Gratolite, claiming K2.132 Billion
2. SS Express Agencies, claiming K85 Million
3. Lido Electricals, claiming K8.9 Million
4. Kasco Enterprises, claiming K1.383 Billion
5. African Commercial Agencies claiming K812 Million, and
6. I&G Tools and Engineering K46 Million.T
his wouldn’t have made headlines at all had the amounts been small; and again this wouldn’t have been worth following up because the Malawi government, and any government for that matter, sues and gets sued all the time.
However, these claims are peculiar in two respects. Firstly, the whole issue stinks conflict of interest. The companies are being represented by Ralph and Arnold Associates; and Ralph and Arnold Associates is a firm in which the Minister of Justice and Attorney General – Mr. Ralph Kasambara - has a vested interest.
How impartial and how free of conflict of interest is the Minister of Justice and Attorney General in advising the government? Hasn’t Ralph Kasambara, the hither-to-fighter of dictatorship and bad governance, set himself on slippery ground? Or is he exempt to the high standards he expected of Pres Mutharika?
And won’t he stumble? Or has he already stumbled in the trappings of corruption? These are the questions that we put to our sources from the corridors of power.
The second and the main point of contention, from the perspective of the recipients and intended users of the riot gear – the Malawi Police Service (MPS), is that they have issues with the higher than usual prices charged by the suppliers and the poor quality of the uniforms and equipment.
While poor quality equipment for any worker can adversely affect their efficiency and at times endanger lives, for police work – especially riot prevention – it is a matter of life and death hence their concern and rejection of the sub-standard Chinese gear.
But before going too far, an answer to the billion dollar question is in order. How were these companies awarded these huge orders in the first place?
The blame falls squarely on the previous government, which was knee-deep in shady deals with these suppliers on many other fronts for their “support” to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
The Bingu wa Mutharika administration, at the highest level, initiated the process:
1. without a tendering process and
2. without subjecting the process to the watchful eye of the Office of the Directorate of Public Procurement (ODPP).
Both these checks and balances would have:
1. ensured best value for money, and
2. competition: resulting in better prices, hopefully better quality and in the least, conformity to specifications as goods below the mark would’ve been rejected.
The old government is now history so attention has naturally shifted onto the current government; and this is where things appear to be in the least, worrisome.
The current government has from the look of things fallen for the rotten tricks hook, line and sinker.
A highly placed source alleges that with the advice of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Mr. Khumbo Kachale - the Vice President - last week authorized release of K1.2 billion to the MPS to facilitate a part-payment of the disputed amounts.
How impartial was the Minister of Justice and Attorney General’s advice in this regard? And what persuaded the Vice President to authorize payment for goods that the users, the police, aren’t happy with?
As expected, these developments have kicked the rumour-mill into overdrive. Two carrots, according to high level rumours, were dangled. K120 million (10%) quid pro quo for the VP’s approval and K50 million for the facilitator.
At this point the question always arises: Where’s the proof? Those with the means (via email or phone) are encouraged to contact the Ministry of Finance and challenge the ministry to dispute the fact that, at the Vice President’s behest, K1.2 billion has been provided to the MPS as part payment for the unacceptable riot gear.
Talking of the Vice President, it seems that he has a lot to do to safeguard his integrity or else the President may prematurely (in 2014) cut short his vice presidency.
As if to test him, the final decision on the famous subsidy fertilizer that was the subject of prior investigations has been delegated to him. According to inside sources, the Ministry of Agriculture has 11 companies on the shortlist.
Removed from the list are Export Trading and Mapeto Wholesalers. Mulli Brothers Limited is still on. Simama is also a big boy in town. Nyiombo Investments Limited, as Ahmed Master had challenged, is also in big time.
Everything now awaits the same VP, who currently has his hands full of rotten riot gear, to sign everything off.
Depending on how the current People’s Party (PP) manages or mismanages such contracts and transactions, some pledges made by donors to the 2012/13 Budget could materialize or again, fail to convert into the much-needed foreign exchange and budgetary support.
Needless to say, if all these developments go on unchecked, the alleged “celebrations” that some “misguided” people enjoyed in early April, will have been premature for the simple reason that Malawi’s donors, never mind the goodwill, know that their tax-payers back home that provide the funds for aid, hate corruption and impunity with a passion.
----©2012 The Maravi Post. Reproduction authorised, with usual acknowledgment.