The Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda has called on the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to investigate Ministry of Health of officials who went on a K350 million trip to United Kingdom funded by a prospective supplier of ambulances.
In a letter dated 24 September, 2021, Nyirenda said the eleven officials committed office abuse by accepting to go on the trip.
Government during the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration wanted to procure 300 ambulances. Vision International, Grand View International and Savenda are the companies which emerged as successful bidders.
The Nation reported last year that bidders, at their own cost, were asked to organise inspections of the ambulances. The trips were undertaken between November and December 2018. A team of Malawi Government officials travelled from Zambia to the United Kingdom and Dubai to inspect ambulances under the sponsorship of bidders.
Later, a contract for supply of ambulance was awarded to Savenda Management Services. ACB launched investigations into the deal and issued a restriction notice but this was later lifted, according to Nyirenda’s letter.
Savenda then went to the Commercial Court where it sued Malawi Government for breach of contract after the ACB ordered Malawi government to freeze the contract amid suspicions of corruption.
A sum of £12,038,000 (K13.5 billion) has since been awarded to Savenda Management Services Limited against the Malawi Government.
Savenda Management Services Limited in its claims said it spent in total the sum of £320,000 (about K350 million) on Ministry of Health Officials who went to the United Kingdom and Zambia to conduct a pre-inspection and post-evaluation exercise on the ambulances that the Ministry of Health intended to procure.
The company said the money represented costs of air tickets, allowances, and accommodation for the delegation of eleven Government employees.
The AG has argued that an offence of abuse of office under section 25B of the Corrupt Practices Act and other corruption-related offences had been committed when the Government officials accepted to be paid allowances by the bidder.
“I am aware that your office previously put a restriction notice on the awarded of the contract to Savenda Management Services which was eventually lifted. I believe that the restriction notice would not have been lifted had your office been informed that Savenda Management Services paid allowances and travel expenses to Government officials involved in the procurement process,” he said.
Civil society watchdog, Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency (CSAT), has welcomed the investigations and has expressed hope that there will be no selectiveness on the issue.
“People involved in award of such contracts should be personally held accountable and face the law. We also believe that these are not attempts to divert the attention of Malawians on current issues. It is also within our expectation that these orders are not meant to overshadow and distract efforts of the ACB on issues that they are currently pursuing,” he told Platform for Investigative Journalism (PIJ.