HRDC wants K53bn claim probed

Alarmed by two companies claiming K53 billion from government, the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has demanded the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), Fiscal Police and the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA) to investigate the matter.

The development follows revelation by our sister paper The Nation in yesterday’s edition that African Commercial Agency and Reliance Trading Company owned by Abdul Karim Batawarara are demanding the said amount for an agreement signed in March 2012.

Members of HRDC pressing for accountability

The two suppliers signed a K9 billion contract with the Immigration Department to supply uniforms but failed to honour the deal and are now demanding K53 billion, which is more than five times the agreed amount.

This has moved the coalition to ask responsible government agencies to investigate Batawarara and the award of the contracts under question for possible corruption and fraud.

“Where there is reason to believe that crimes occurred; security agencies should arrest and prosecute suspects,” reads part of the statement.

The statement was signed by the group’s national chairperson Timothy Mtambo, his deputy Gift Trapence and regional chairpersons Happy Mhango (North), Madalitso Banda (East), Masauko Thawe (South) and Billy Mayaya (Centre).

HRDC also want PPDA to immediately disbar the two companies and any firms associated with Batawarara from participating in any public tender in Malawi.

The grouping also want government to suspend all current contracts that Africa Commercial Agency and Reliance Trading Company or any firms associated with Batawarara until the two companies are cleared.

“Should the Malawi Government not act on the above, HRDC will assume that the administration is in consort with the suppliers that want to reap from poor Malawians where they did not sow.

“Should that be the case, HRDC shall include this as one of the demands in the upcoming demonstrations in March 2019. The demonstrations shall be against continued plunder of public resources specifically against Mr. Karim Batawarara, his two companies and the Peter Mutharika-led government,” reads the statement.

The group has also threatened that if its demands are not effected it will have no option but to take legal action because “Malawians have watched with dismay certain questionable suppliers shamelessly siphoning billions out of government through dubious claims and inflation of invoices.”

After signing the contract in 2012, nothing came through from the suppliers and the Immigration Department concluded that the companies’ silence on the order had invalidated the contract.

But on August 1 2017, the department got separate letters from the two companies both dated July 31 2017 with identical message that the goods the department had ordered would be in Malawi “within the next three weeks” and asked the authorities to facilitate duty free clearance from the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) for the consignments.

This shocked the department because as far as it was concerned the contracts were no longer valid in view of the five years that elapsed without receiving the goods.

The department then wrote the Attorney General (AG) on August 2 2017 seeking legal advice and the AG advised it to reject the goods based on the lapsed time, forcing the suppliers to resort to courts where government is now fighting the matter. n

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