Malawi loses K5 billion in corruption

Pilirani Phiri
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
November 21, 2005

The Malawi government has lost close to a whopping K5 billion in the last five years due to high-level corrupt practices that involved top government and party officials, The Chronicle has learnt.

According to a document which details summary cases of persons and amounts, saved or lost, status, and the remarks of 21 high-level corruption cases, obtained by The Chronicle, the government lost close to K5 billion due to a high degree of corrupt practices since 1999.

Ironically, the document also implicates some cabinet ministers in the President Bingu wa Mutharika administration, and officials in his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) who have been dubbed by their critics as political refugees running from the long arm of the law.

Civil society has since bemoaned the revelation, saying it is a mockery of the current situation when the country is going begging for food relief to save its 5 million citizens whose lives are at stake due to [persistent] hunger.

The document alleges that the government has not yet recovered K13 million in a case where DPP Secretary General Joyce Banda is said to have been awarded a K26 million contract to construct Limbe Transit Depot by ADMARC in 2002 when she was its board member.

The document further reveals that Banda, in case number LIL/102/02, allegedly pocketed K13 million in advances before commencement of the work.

“Investigations have so far established that Kambe Building Contractors, a company belonging to Mrs Joyce Banda was awarded a contract to construct a fence at Limbe Transit Depot. However, the circumstances surrounding the contract award are yet to be established,” says the document on the status of the case.

When contacted for comment, Banda, while confirming that indeed Kambe contractors belongs to her, said she has never won a tender of K26 million.

“Yes, Kambe belongs to me but I have never won a K26 million tender in my life. Tell me again the case number, I should phone Mr Kaliwo (Gustav Kaliwo, the ACB Director),” Banda said.

In case number LIL/53/2004, DPP Second Deputy Vice President Khumbo Kachali and some National Roads Authority (NRA) board members are implicated in a K11,500,000 scam where they are alleged to have bought a Toyota Prado VX from a Mr Muhammad, then a board member, at an inflated figure of K11,500,000 despite it being an old vehicle.

“The deal was facilitated by Mr Khumbo Kachali, then board chairman, who was using the vehicle. There are allegations that NRA usually awards contracts to G&C and Matete Civil Contractors because they belong to some NRA board members,” the document said in its summary of the case.

It further says investigations are currently underway and that documents have been so far collected from the NRA and are being analysed.

People’s Progressive Movement (PPM) President Aleke Kadonaphani Banda (AKB), then Agriculture Minister, is implicated in a K127,210,770 scam, case number LIL/469/98 on alleged corrupt practices involving fertilizer transactions with Smallholder Farmers Fertilizer Revolving Fund of Malawi (SFFRFM) Starter Pack Program.

On the status of the case, the document says investigations were concluded in June 2003.

“Report submitted to government with recommendations to take administrative action against Hon. Aleke Banda and also prosecution under the penal code against Farmers World for obtaining goods by false pretences,” reads the document.

However, when contacted, Aleke Banda said he was not aware of the case.

“I have never heard of it,” he said on the phone on Wednesday.

Former Head of State, Bakili Muluzi is named in a closed case BT/293/2002 in the purchase of Linden House at Linden Estate in South Africa from Air Malawi at K2 million.

In the saved column, the document showed government saved K4 million hence the closing of the Linden Estate case.

Currently, the graft busting body, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has also instituted a preliminary investigation into allegations that former President Bakili Muluzi received K100 million to pardon corruption convict Shabir Suleman, who was convicted for bribing a Malawi High Court judge.

In the case number LIL/148/04, Muluzi is alleged to have received a K100 million bribe from a Malawian of Indian origin Shabir Suleman, who was at Zomba Prison for his pardon.

The document says investigations are still underway as the “Bureau” continues to get more details.

Apart from the K187 million scam involving Vice President (VP) Cassim Chilumpha and other officials, the document ─ in case number LIL/667/99 ─ also implicates the VP in $4 million (K500 million) worth of corrupt practices when he was finance minister, in the award of the Pre-Shipment Inspection (PSI) contract to Inter-tek, a contract that was eventually cancelled by former President Muluzi.

According to the document, investigations on the case concluded in 2000 and a report was submitted to Muluzi under Section 10 (1) (C) of the Corrupt Practices Act for action against Chilumpha but no action was taken.

The document also reveals that government lost K2.9 billion in a case in which ADMARC management and some UDF officials Friday Jumbe, Leonard Mangulama, and Weston Kanjira are alleged to have mismanaged and plundered the Strategic Grain Reserves (SGR).

Former army commander, retired General Chimbayo’s government is said to have lost K98,456,383 on allegation that he procured army uniforms from the Songdoh Company Limited belonging to Mrs S.Y. Kim of Lilongwe in 2003 without following proper tender procedures.

The document says investigations have just started on the matter.

“Documents have been served on the Secretary for Defence to produce relevant documents,” it reads.

Some of the cases involve other government officials in parastatal, and other government institutions.

Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Ishmael Wadi could not be reached for comment on the ACB cases.

At the time of going to press, the ACB had not yet responded our questionnaire on the issues prompting a personal visit to the ACB offices in Lilogwe.

When The Chronicle visited ACB’s director, Gustav Kaliwo, to verify the authenticity of the document and its contents, he then demanded that The Chronicle reveal the source of the document, which The Chronicle vehemently refused to do.

He said he was unable to make any comment on the document.

“I am in an awkward position to comment on the issue because you are also refusing to disclose your source”.

He also added that because some of the cases relate to the time before he became director, it was also difficult to make any comment.

“Then I don’t know if we can co-operate. We are keeping this document here. We didn’t ask you to bring it here,” Kaliwo said before finally deciding to photocopy and return the produced document.

A recent Transparency International (TI) report says Malawi has slipped seven steps lower on the Transparency International 2005 (TI) index.

Categories: Africa, Malawi, Odious Debts

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