As Malawi citizens continue to grapple and continue to spend long days at the Road Traffic Directorate due to slow and disruptions in service, it has emerged that the Ministry of Transport and Public Works flouted procurement procedures in awarding a multi-million Kwacha contract to Fischer and Movesa Consultancy in 2014 for the upgrade of the Malawi Traffic Information Systems (MalTIS) Nyasa Times has discovered.
The Ministry of Transport and Public Works duplicitously awarded a contract worth over a billion Kwacha to a consultancy firm for a service that could have been done without paying a dime.
A senior government official who is well acquainted with operations at Road Traffic and Safety Services says government wasted over K1.5 billion ($3 million) for awarding a contract to upgrade the Malawi Transport Information Systems Safety to a new company Movesa Fischer for a job that could be done freely by the original suppliers of the technology, Face Technologies.
Said the official: “For starters, the contract was for consultancy thus Face Technologies did not bid. In the dossier the scope of work was to upgrade but when you look at the software and hardware you find that it’s basically the same things on the existing Maltis through which the Republic of Malawi procured in the year 2000 from Face Technologies and which is still running up to now.
“Why is the government procuring another system when it’s already got one which is up and running which just needs maintenance just here and there by the installers who are supposed to upgrade the system for free?” wondered the official.
Nyasa Times investigations indicate that the same consultancy firm, Face Technologies is the same company which designed a system to link Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) and Road traffic.
The official explains that MRA paid Face Technologies and the system was delivered to Ministry of Transport and that it just needed to be linked but the Ministry of Transport refused to use it, surprisingly it was included in the consultancy tender.
“Why buy another tax-linked system to the MALTIS when one was already provided. There’s a lot of mess at the Ministry of Transport especially the Road Traffic directorate and there are indications that at times they use the dummy system to siphon money. If government was serious it could have cancelled this deal to solve all the mess with urgency but that won’t happen because that is a way how they embezzle public funds,” said the official.
Nyasa Times investigations also reveals that the decision by government to award the Malawi Transport Information System upgrade to a company that was not recommended by the internal procurement committee of the Ministry of Transport and Public Works.
Nyasa Times investigations indicate that in 2012 government invited bids from companies interested to upgrade the Maltis and twelve companies applied.
The twelve companies included Huwaei International, E- Emporium, Movesa and Fischer Consulting, Attain Enterprise Solutions, HHWUTSCH, Gestetner, Niagara ID Corp, Globe Computers, Madras Security Printers, Techno Brain, DCDM Consulting and Nico Technologies.
After the first short listing exercise which took place at the Ministry of Transport Headquarters in the capital Lilongwe on December 21, 2012 the evaluation team shortlisted six companies and they included Movesa and Fischer Consulting, Niagara Id Corp, Globe Computer Systems, Madras Security Printers, Techno Brain and DCDM Consulting.
According to documents which Nyasa Times sourced, the bidders submitted their proposals which were evaluated in three stages, including technical proposal, prototype demonstration and experience of bidder through site visits.
After all the processes Techno Brain was recommended as the lowest bidder at a corrected contract price of MK1, 882,484,598.92. However for no plausible reasons the whole process was stopped and government decided to call for fresh bids from the four companies Movesa Fischer Consortium, Madras Security Printers, Techno Brain and DCDM Consulting.
The financial proposals were opened at the Ministry of Transport and Public Works headquarters from 2pm on February 20 2014 and in front of representative from bidders and government officials.
It is understood that the evaluation committee again recommended the engagement of Techno Brain to upgrade the MALTIS and also recommended Madras to do the job
if negotiations between Techno Brain and government did not yield any tangible fruits.
But in an interview, Francis Kasaira who held the portfolio of Transport and Public Works minister before being moved to Foreign Affairs, denied that fraud took place in the system upgrade contract awarding process, saying that there was an open bid in which the new company Movesa-Fischer won.
Kasaira explained that it is out of order for someone to be talking while the former company did not take part in the current bid.
He said it has taken the (government almost two years to procure the services of the new company.
“If we could have just allowed them to continue, that would have been flouting the procurement procedures. Would you be happy yourself as a journalist to pay someone you don’t have a contract with? I don’t think that would be the way to go,” said Kasaira.
However, impeccable sources at the MoT insists that the ministry flouted procedures in awarding the contract to Fischer and Movesa Consultancy when the contract was with another firm who were meant to do the systems upgrade as part of terms and conditions of their contract.
Nyasa Times understands that in 2011 the MoT terminated the contract with Face Technologies Limited and advertised in November 2011 inviting potential subscribers to “Express their interest for the upgrade of the MalTIS”.
Our sources divulged that the government was warned that this would bring disruptions in services to Malawians but it was given a deaf ear and a blind eye.
“The minister was duly advised of the implications of the involvement of third party contractors like the possible destruction of the MalTIS system as it is not possible for third parties to upgrade a system that was uniquely designed and developed others but he couldn’t take it for that would be like contracting Apple to upgrade Windows software that was developed by Microsoft,” said the source.
Added the source: “The other reason why it never made (economic) sense to contract a third party to do the upgrade was that the cost of the upgrade would surmount to a much higher expense to the MoT than it be incurred if the original developer were allowed to do the same.”
As the designer, builders and implementers of the system, only Face Technologies Limited would be able to upgrade it due to its complexity and built in security features and control measures and without such knowledge, a third party would need to totally replace the system instead of upgrading it which would have cost implications on government.
According to Nyasa Times investigations this was all happening at a time when the country’s economy was down on its knees with inflation in double digits as the kwacha continued to depreciate, especially during the lean tobacco season and in the absence of donor budgetary support.
Nyasa Times learnt that despite the warning and concerns the MoT went ahead with the invitation of expression of interest through which 12 organizations responded.
In 2013, the MoT shortlisted 4 companies from the original 12 that expressed their interest namely; Techno Brain, DCDM Consultancy, Fischer and Movesa Consultancy and Madras Security.
The shortlisted companies were sent a dossier titled “Request for proposal document for the procurement of consultancy services” and then called for the presentation of their proposed work as per their proposed work as per their tender.
Surprisingly, the original MalTIS developer, Face Technologies Limited, was also called to participate in the presentation even though they never participated in the tender and were therefore not part of the original four selected bidders.
The advertised expression of interest was completely different from the final tender dossier in as so far as the objectives and scope of works were concerned. The tender indicated a request for a “Proposal Document for the Procurement of Consultancy Services” while the expression of interest clearly indicated the requirement for an upgrade to the existing MalTIS system.
The tender dossier was contradictory in that it was headed as requiring consultancy services on one hand while requiring bidders to quote for works namely the upgrade in the bid data sheet. Another irregularity was the fact that not all the parties who expressed their interest were invited to bid for the tender and there is mist over what criteria was used in shortlisting the final 4 bidders.
MalTIS is a system that the Department of Road Traffic and Safety Services, under the MoT, adopted for capturing, processing and storage of traffic information.
It is used for the issuance and renewal of drivers’ licences and permits, road permits, and weighbridge data.
Nyasa Times investigations also revealed that that the final tender was never advertised in the press as required by law and which further made people more suspicious of the whole process.
Furthermore, upon award the price of the contract was adjusted upwards from US$2, 898, 232, 00 to US$3, 838, 743.80 which was apparently done to accommodate the purchase of new hardware which was neither advertised in the tender dossier nor was it a necessity of the original developer had been engaged, said the source.
“Everything about the contract is suspicious. Someone somewhere got rich out this transaction. This nothing but theft of public funds and corruption. If this is not corruption and theft of public funds then I don’t know what is,” lamented an official.
Malawi, one of the world’s poorest nations, has embarked on a series of reforms designed to strengthen an economy battered by the economic crisis of 2012, which saw a contraction in real gross domestic product (GDP) growth to 2.1% and the recent efforts to reform the country have appeared chaotic and muddled by corruption and abuse of public finance.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :