The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) led administration must not take Malawians for granted and let corruption take the centre stage in the awarding of contracts.
I have noticed with great concern the worrisome machinations behind the so called standoff between Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (MERA) boss and the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB).
A close friend of mine confided in me that he wrote the graft-busting body in April of this year concerning irregularities that he observed in the illegal awarding of the tender to construct MERA headquarters to Terrastone Construction Limited when in fact it was SR Nicholas Ltd that came first in the initial open tendering system at MERA’s offices in Development House at city centre. It is on record that MERA’s Procurement Committee formally agreed that SR Nicholas Ltd was the rightful preferred bidder. Their contract award was supported by a letter of ‘No Objection’ from the Office of the Director of Public Procurement (ODPP).
However, my colleague uncovered a plot in which MERA’s CEO, Mr Ralph Kamoto in his own power, upon moving to MERA, decided to award the contract to Terrastone Construction Company, apparently because he was promised US$400,000 by the firm. The MERA boss calculatedly sat on SR Nicholas Ltd’s letter of ‘No Objection’ until it expired then went ahead to cancel the offer.
After that, Kamoto dissolved MERA’s Internal Procurement Committee, re-tendered and then offered to Terrastone whose award has now been challenged by concerned citizens and whistle-blowers who reported to ACB.
It turns out, that even in the re-tendering “plot”, Segocoa Anhui Construction company emerged as the lowest bidder, while meeting the technical specs but surprisingly the MERA boss influenced the IPC to pick Terrastone Construction Limited, hence the seeking of ACB’s intervention by concerned parties. It is very shocking that such acts can be entertained by a government that campaigned to end corruption and has embarked on a drive to lift this country from the jaws of poverty.
And with that background, I am of the opinion that both SR Nicholas Ltd, Segocoa Anhui Construction Company and the public at large would be interested to know as to why successful candidates to open tendering processes must continue to be denied the due right to carry out works in various sectors when we have a leadership that boasts of concern for the country’s poor and is called progressive, under a constitutional professor.
Reading last weekend’s newspaper of August 6, 2016, one would not fail to discover MERA’s overlooking of the concern at hand. According to the paper, MERA has ably provided minutes of the Internal Procurement Committee (IPC), evaluation reports, bidding documents and other minutes surrounding the re-awarding of the contract to Terrastone. But surprisingly, MERA is silent on the much needed and requested details surrounding the first Internal Procurement Committee that was dissolved, that apparently handled the awarding of the contract to SR Nicholas Ltd which rightfully sought ACB’s intervention after being dumped by MERA without explanation. It is such information that should have been first given by MERA.
As an independent observer and a concerned citizen, I am not pleased with the worrying hastiness by the MERA CEO to rule out ACB’s probe into the way MERA has clearly mishandled the awarding of the contract. In one line I read that Mr Kamoto concludes that ACB’s reasons for the probe are ‘lame’ and that ACB is bent on abusing its powers.
I want to disagree with Mr Kamoto’s sentiments and would further submit that as citizens, our only last hope in the fight against corruption is the Anti-Corruption Bureau and we would not be pleased with any works that seem to be blocking probes from this institution. This is the body to which we unanimously send what we discover to be unfairness and irregularities that seek clarifications and probing. Therefore, as citizens, we cannot afford to have around powerful men and women that brush aside the role of ACB.
I want to agree with ACB’s position that they can and should not be pushed to hurry up a case, if at all truth on any matter is what the public seeks. If any case does seem to have more questions than answers, the way the MERA headquarters facility case is proving to be, then bodies like ACB, together with other concerned people, must really pause and probe to get the right answers.
In fact, the argument that ACB’s probe is costing MERA money is what I call lame because even if monies are lost, as citizens we would wish to get to the bottom of the matter and seal holes of corruption and injustice, which if not sealed, then real monies will continue to be lost in the way we govern this country.
Therefore, I conclude that MERA’s boss haste rushing to the media and the Attorney General to sound a false alarm and push a shove of allegations on ACB says a lot of something illegal and too bad that is happening in the background as my friend wrote to ACB months ago.
Something big and not appetising to the public must definitely be going on for us as citizens to be fed on cooked up propaganda against a body that is seeking to probe into why MERA dropped a qualified and winning bidder SR Nicholas Ltd and dissolved the IPC that handled that lawful process, then rushed to set up another tramped up bid, leaving out SR Nicholas Ltd, thereby allowing Terrastone to carry the day without competition; especially considering Kamoto’s corrupt practices from the past organisations he has served.
This is injustice of the highest order and men and women who can be so insensitive and careless to reach such peaks in corruption must be questioned and would better not be placed to handle our institutions. This is the same thing as putting hyenas as guard of a goat’s kraal. Plunder and destruction is the only plausible end result.
Mutharika’s administration must not allow hidden capitalist hands to break apart the drive towards fighting corruption and injustice. This nonsense has to stop.
By Ibrahim Zayed.
*Views expressed in this article are those of the author and not Malawi24. Email articles for publication firstname.lastname@example.org.