AG orders DRTSS to investigate allegations raised that MalTIS developer deliberately designed or interfered with to block indigenous Malawians

Attorney General (AG), Thabo Chakaka-Nyirenda has directed the Directorate of Road Traffic & Safety Services (DRTSS) to investigate issues raised by the industry’s stakeholders that allege that Fischer Consultants & MOVESA deliberately designed or interfered with Malawi Traffic Information System (MalTIS) to block indigenous Malawian business persons from accessing it.

The AG has prepared a circular addressed to Public Procurement & Disposal of Assets and Authority (PPDAA); Comptroller of Statutory Corporations; Directorate of Road Traffic & Safety Services (DRTSS) and the Competition & Fair Trading Commission (CFTC) following various complaints that Black Business Indigenous Network has registered with his offices.

The allegations are unethical business practices perpetrated by non-indigenous business actors — thus the AG ordering the PPDAA and CFTC to investigate the issues raised by the Black Business Indigenous Network and that appropriate sanctions must be imposed in such malpractices.

Further, the DRTSS is also advised to address issues raised by the Network as regards to the MalTIS, which the industry players are failing to access — an issue that has been discussed and probed into in the past few years but to no avail.

According to the AG, the Black Business Indigenous Network leveled the monopolistic and unethical business practices perpetrated non-indigenous business actors.

Attorney General Thabo Chakaka-Nyirenda

Further, the DRTSS is advised to address issues raised by the Black Business Indigenous Network as regards to the MalTIS issues complaint against in various procuring entities that also included, and not limited to, Central Medical Stores Trust (CMST), Water Boards of Blantyre, Lilongwe & the Northern Region as well as Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM).

The AG reports that the Black Business Indigenous Network alleges that there is a cartel perpetrated by businesses owned by foreigners, particularly those of Asian origin and manufacturers that serve to exclude black Malawian business persons from obtaining manufacturers authorization -$ a key document that enables businesses to succeed in tendering for business of supplying manufactured goods.

With regard to the complaints, the AG quoted section 44(10) of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Act (Cap. 37:03 of the Laws of Malawi), that says: ‘A procuring entity shall ensure prioritization of all bids submitted to give preference to 60 percent indigenous black Malawians and 40 percent others for national competitive bidding”.

“The effect of section 40(10) is that procuring entities must at all times allocate 60% quota in favour of indigenous black Malawians in respect of procurement of goods and services.

“It appears that the procuring systems by various procuring entities have been deliberately designed to favour businesses owned by non-black Malawians and to evade section 44(10) of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Act.

“I have also come across trends in which procuring entities not only provide advance payments to entities owned by non-black Malawians but also provide guarantees for commercial loans that these businesses obtain.

“As a result, section 44(10) is being honoured more in breach than in observance. If we were to uphold section 44(10) and consequently the rule of law and distribution of wealth, procuring entities must ensure that policies and bid documents are reviewed to enable indigenous black Malawians meaningfully participate in public procurement.

“I, thus, advise that procuring entities should devise systems that should enable compliance with section 44(10) of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Act which will invariably promote and strengthen the rule of law.

“I further advise that the Public Procurement & Disposal of Assets and Authority, which regulates public procurements must ensure that section 44(10) is complied with when processing requests for approvals to award contracts commonly known as request for ‘no objections’.

The MalTIS — a government technological service — is riddled with controversy that it has already attracted the attention and action by the AG as well as Malawi Parliament through its Committee on Transport.

In November last year, the MalTIS servers crashed, disabling all DRTSS essential services the crisis forced the DRTSS to fly in the developers of the system, Movesa & Fischer Consulting from South Africa, raising fears of sabotage on the part of the foreign contractor, who are reluctant to hand over the system to Malawi Government.

Our source within DRTSS indicated to us back then that they had a problem with one of their network switches at the data centre and were failing to restore operations — opting to fly in the MalTIS developers, who have held it back as ransom for the past 6 years.

The DRTSS confirmed the shutdown of entire country system in a public notice on Thursday November 10 and while acknowledging that the public was experiencing numerous challenges.

Meanwhile, CFTC already received a complaint against unfair trading practices on the MalTIS and further engaged private garage operators to assess for possible investigations on serious concerns that were raised to do with vehicle certificate of fitness (COF) thorough the MalTIS.

The private garage operators raised many challenges that include being barred from accessing the supposedly government system even after meeting all regulatory requirements — such as investing in advanced equipment at their premises.

The development of MalTIS was granted to Movesa and South Africa-based firm, Fischer Consulting with an agreement to handover to the Malawi Government in 2017, but six years after the agreed initial handover, the consultant is still clinging on to the sensitive system.

In September, the AG was incredulous that an technological contract was given to Movesa, a company with no ICT expertise, that subcontracted the deal to Fischer Consulting.

The AG also told the media that through the breach of not handing over the MalTIS system, vehicles are dubiously being registered in South Africa by Movesa and Fischer Consulting and being driven into the country to evade the payment of excise and import duty.

Chakaka-Nyirenda indicated in September that his office would commence litigation against the consultant after Movesa was reluctant to engage with the AG to hand over the system since May this year.

Parliamentary Committee of Transport chairperson Ucizi Mkandawire was quoted in the media back then as saying there was need for the government to take control of the system, raising fears that the consultant might decide to tamper with it and in worst case scenario, switch it off.

He was quoted by The Daily Times as saying: “They may decide to shut down the system anytime they want because they have all the rights; all the control of the servers and everything.

“We, as a Committee are indeed worried. The way things are, we — as government — don’t own the system because it is still being controlled by the consultant,” Mkandawire told the paper in September.

The private garage operators also raised concerns of unfair trading practices on the part of DRTSS and Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS) over sole blank number plate importation granted only to Movesa.

DRTSS and MBS denied a bidder to join the industry to supply the blank number plates by indicating that the bidder’s plates failed to meet standards but Movesa is supplying and selling substandard plates.

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