Malawi Communi-cations Regulatory Authority (Macra) is entangled in procurement controversy after buying an official vehicle for its director general beyond his entitlement.
The authority bought a state-of the-art Toyota Prado VX model for its boss Daud Suleman from Toyota Malawi when the entitlement is a Toyota Prado TX model.
The move is a direct contravention of government’s motor vehicle entitlement policy for chief executive officers and directors in State corporations.
Documents Weekend Nation has seen indicate that in November 2021, Macra’s administration department made a request to the Internal Procurement and Disposal Committee (IPDC) to procure a vehicle for Suleman who reported for duties on November 1 2021.
The purchase, according to minutes of the IPDC we have seen, was to be in line with the existing circular from the Comptroller of Statutory Corporations dated July 18 2017 that chief executive officers are entitled to Toyota Prado TX.
The authority, through its Procurement and Disposal Unit (PDU), further sourced a quotation from Toyota Malawi for a Toyota Prado TXL amounting to K109 million.
“Upon critical deliberation of the request the IPDC approved the procurement of the vehicle for the director general and advised the Procurement and Disposal Unit to seek for a ‘No Objection’ from PPDA,” reads part of the IPDC minutes after its meeting held on November 12 2021 at Macra head office in Blantyre.
The IPDC was chaired by Elvin Mwapasa (acting director of finance), former procurement manager Grace Kaphale was secretary while Fergus Lipenga (former director of broadcasting) and Dan Chiwoni (deputy director of legal services) were members.
Macra proceeded to seek a ‘No Objection’ from PPDA through a request made on November 17 2021, which was duly granted.
“Macra would like to procure a Toyota Prado TXL for the director general. The procurement follows the recruitment of the new director general for the authority.
“The total cost of the vehicle is K109 081 975.46 from Toyota Malawi.
Therefore, we request your office to allow Macra to procure the vehicle using single sourcing,” reads Macra’s letter to PPDA signed by former director of finance Ben Chitsonga.
According to Macra’s conditions of service, the director general is entitled to a personal-to-holder vehicle valued at $150 000 (then K123.7 million) and so the TXL was within the limit.
However, despite PPDA granting Macra a ‘No Objection’ to procure Toyota Prado TXL, the authority decided to purchase a Toyota Prado 2.8 TD Auto VXL 2800 from Toyota Malawi at K136 896 000.
A source at Macra said this was a clear case of misprocurement as the decision to buy a Toyota Prado 2.8 TD Auto VXL 2800 was not discussed and approved by the IPDC.
“The IPDC was sidelined in the entire process of deciding to buy a vehicle that is beyond the director general’s entitlement. Short-cuts were used, they maneuvered to buy the VXL,” said the source.
When contacted on Thursday, Mwapasa declined to comment on the issue referring Weekend Nation to Macra board chairperson Stanley Khaila.
Khaila said he would not comment on the issue because his tenure as board chair for the entity expired yesterday while Suleman simply said the information we had was wrong and refused to comment on why the board bought a vehicle different from the one PPDA had approved.
Toyota Prado 2.8 TD Auto VXL 2800 is a newer model and according to the existing government circular, they are meant for Cabinet ministers and their deputies.
Comptroller of Statutory Corporation Peter Simbani without directly commenting on the issue said government was working on a policy that would recommend vehicle types for certain officers based on engine capacities rather than by brand or model because the existing policy is not in line with the PPDA Act.
But accountability and transparency watchdog Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency (Csat) said what Macra did was a show of extravagance, and contempt to President Lazarus Chakwera’s call for austerity measures.
“There is no justification for the purchase of such a luxurious vehicle when tax payers are suffering. It is clear that we have people in this country who are living in their own world. We expect the appointing authority to take relevant correction action against those who breached the law,” said Csat executive director Willy Kambwandira.
On his part, an expert in good governance and public expenditure tracking and analysis Mavuto Bamusi noted Macra’s conduct reflects the state of impunity and arrogance.
“Macra is also in breach of public procurement law. In a nutshell, Macra is involved in plunder and abuse of scarce public funds at a time Malawi is going through a deep economic crisis,” he said.
In May last year, Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation suspended its former general manager Rhino Chiphiko after he bought a K107 million Nissan Patrol official vehicle.
This move ignored the Admarc board’s decision a month earlier to buy a smaller and cheaper vehicle for the cash-strapped grain trader.