PAC summons govt

Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament has summoned some top government officials to appear before it to explain the legitimacy of a K53.9 billion claim that two firms want the Immigration Department to pay.

Two companies—Africa Commercial Agency and Reliance Trading Company—are demanding  K53.9 billion for a K9 billion contract signed in 2012 to supply uniforms and other accessories to Immigration Department but delivery only started five years later.

Some Immigration officers on parade

In letters leaked to The Nation and signed by chairperson Alekeni Menyani, PAC has ordered top government officials in Immigration, the Attorney General and Secretary to the Treasury as well as directors of the two companies to appear before the committee on February 1 2019.

Reads the letter in part: “You are ordered to come and appear before the Parliament Committee on Public Accounts at Parliament Building along the Presidential Drive on Friday February  1 2019 to give evidence on the legitimacy of the payment claim totalling K53.9 billion for the supply and delivery of Immigration uniforms and other accessories to the Immigration Department.”

The letter, dated January 18  2019, states that PAC is invoking its powers according to Section 9 of the National Assembly (Powers and Privilege Act) to summon the government officials and directors or secretaries of Africa Commercial Agency and Reliance Trading Company.

In an interview yesterday, Menyani confirmed to have penned the top government officials and the supplier, saying they want to hear how the transaction was managed.

“We will invite the supplier first to hear his side of the story before meeting the top government officials. We are dispatching the letters on Friday [today],” he said.

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has written President Peter Mutharika to intervene in the same matter.

In a letter signed by Timothy Mtambo, the HRDC chairperson,  and his deputy  Gift Trapence, the coalition asked the President to call the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and Fiscal Police to investigate Abdul Karim Batawarara, who runs Africa Commercial Agency and Reliance Trading Company, for possible corruption and fraud; and where there is reason to believe that crimes occurred; security agencies should arrest and prosecute suspects.

In an interview, Trapence confirmed to have authored the letter and that it was delivered at State House.

“They have signed for it acknowledging receiving the letter,” he said.

HRDC also called for the ACB and the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA) to investigate the award of the contracts in question as well as for PPDA to, with immediate effect, disbar Africa Commercial Agency and Reliance Trading Company and any firms associated with Batatawala from participating in any public tender in Malawi.

“Should 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,” reads the letter.

HRDC said it was shocked as to why the supplier was silent all these years only to start making such unnecessary and unfounded demands after six years.

When The Nation broke the story last week, chief Immigration officer Masauko Medi declined to comment, saying the matter was in court. n

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