Firms want govt’s K53bn

Two suppliers that signed uniform supply deals with the Immigration Department in 2012— Africa Commercial Agency and Reliance Trading Company—want taxpayers to pay them K53 billion, which is more than five times the agreed contract amount.

Government is now fighting this claim, believing that both contracts—signed for just over K9 billion in March 2012—fell off automatically when five years elapsed without the two companies delivering the goods despite the department placing orders on April 10 2012, according to documents The Nation has seen.

Immigration officers march in their uniform

“We write to inform uniform to be supplied as soon as possible. We, therefore, advise that you go ahead manufacturing them as per our specifications and deliver them to our stores as they are getting ready and payment shall be made after thirty days from the invoice date for delivery made,” reads part of the letter the then chief immigration officer Elvis Thodi, a communication that the department says went to all the suppliers. you that we require the

When nothing came through from the suppliers, the Immigration Department concluded that the companies’ silence on the order had invalidated the contract.

Then on August 1 2017, Immigration Department director general Masauko Medi received separate l e t t e r s f r om Af r i ca Commercial Agency and Reliance Trading Company. Both letters were dated July 31 2017.

The message from the companies was identical: the goods the department had ordered would be in Malawi “within the next three weeks” and asked the Immigration authorities to facilitate duty free clearance from the Malawi Revenue Authority for the consignments.

That shocked Medi because as far as the department was concerned the contracts were no longer valid in view of the five years that elapsed without receiving the goods, according to a letter the Immigration chief sent to the Attorney General as well as to the then minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security, Grace Chiumia.

Upon receipt of the letters from the two suppliers, Medi—on August 2 2017— wrote the Attorney General (AG) seeking legal advice.

Wrote Medi to the AG: “We have received communications from Reliance Trading Company and Africa Commodity Agency regarding the contract that we signed with the two companies on March 30 2012 that are about to supply us with the goods as requested.

“In view of t h i s development, we would like to seek your advice as the contract was signed in 2012 and we have not heard from them since then,” reads the letter, adding, “We are of the view that due to lapse of time the contract is invalidated.”

The AG advised the Immigration Department to reject the goods based on the lapsed time; advice that the agency followed, according to the letter from Medi to Chiumia.

The suppliers resorted to courts, but later agreed to negotiate with government—through the Attorney General— for a possible out of court settlement, according to Medi’s letter.

Medi told the minister that it was during one of the negotiation meetings that the suppliers produced a worksheet outlining total value of goods already United States dollars exchange rate to be at K46.6 billion while the value of the goods not arrived at current exchange rate to be K7.3 billion. arrived in Malawi at current

This brought the total bill to K53.9 billion, against the agreed amount of just over K9 billion.

“These figures alarmed the office of the Attorney General and expanded the consultation group incorporating Auditor General, Secretary to the Treasury and Secretary for Home Affairs for government to have one stand on the matter,” reads the letter in part.

He also informed the minister that the consultation group agreed that the Attorney General would inform President Peter Mutharika about the matter for his knowledge and guidance as the amount claimed by the supplier was beyond the department’s budget provisions.

The negotiations have since collapsed, Medi said yesterday, declining to comment further as the matter is now back in court.

“Negotiations were terminated and we are going for full trial,” he said.

Minister of Homeland Security Nicholas Dausi said he had to check with his office on the development as he was not aware, saying; “May be the communication was made to my predecessor. I am in Nkhata Bay now on issues about albino killings. Let me check with my office when I am back in Lilongwe,”

On her part, Chiumia said she could not answer for a ministry she no longer heads.

At t o r n e y G e n e r a l Kalekeni Kaphale yesterday asked for more time to check details of the case but said the AG’s office had been handling the case.

“I am in Blantyre and I may need to check tomorrow first, but I have been handling several cases through my officers that involve the same parties, so I need to cross- check first on which case are you referring to,” he said.

W h e n c o n t a c t e d for comment, African Commercial Agency managing director Abdul Karim Batawarara refused to speak in a phone interview, saying he would contact the reporter later.

“I will call back,” said Batawarara and cut the line. Subsequent attempts to speak to him proved futile.

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