Blantyre City Council in contract dispute, implicates ruling PP

The Blantyre City Council (BCC) has been rocked in a dispute with an event decoration firm it committed to engage as the country was celebrating its 48th Independence last month at the COMESA Hall in Blantyre, Nyasa Times can reveal.

The council, according to our source, picked KAMA Florists to decorate the COMESA Hall for the event after a bidding process and further advised the firm, through its director a Mrs. Maziya, to start purchasing and preparing some material to use at the hall.

KAMA Florists was awarded the contract after it charged K2.5 million which was lower than the two others who quoted K4.5 million and K7 million respectively.

However, a few days before starting the work BCC communicated to the selected bidder, who also did the job during last year’s celebrations, that it had received orders from the ruling Peoples Party (PP) politburo to engage another firm.

“KAMA Florists was actually told of the development after its director went to collect the commitment letter [which was already signed by Alfred Chanza, who was acting Chief Executive Officer when Nandolo was away in Lilongwe] and also appraise the council on the progress made,” explained our source.

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“When she queried that she had already stated purchasing materials as earlier advised, she was told there was nothing the council could do since the directive was reportedly from senior members of the ruling party,” explained the source.

Two weeks before the Independence celebrations, Nyasa Times source said Nandolo, while in Lilongwe to present the council’s budget for the celebrations, had phoned Mitini Nkhoma that he had identified one firm to do the decorations at K7million and advised him to identify two more others.

“After identifying the other two, that was when KAMA Florists was picked to do the job. It was felt that KAMA was cheap and had experience in doing the job having done it already during previous celebration,” said the source.

However, Nyasa Times understands that the move to replace KAMA Florists was done by the Directors of Administrative Services and Parks after they found another firm, Florist Decorators which they claimed had charged lower than K2.5 million.

But it was later discovered that Florist Decorators had charged even higher (K2.7million) than KAMA Florist (K2.5million), an amount which BCC finally paid.

“The Peoples Party was just mentioned to instill fear in KAMA Florists so that it does not continue querying the decision. But the truth is that the two directors hoodwinked the chief executive and brought in Florist Decorators after the process had already been done as they were promised a ‘thank them’ of K800 000.

“The director of administration was personally involved in the processing of payment which does not happen and was actually paid the said amount,” a source from the BCC Treasury Department told Nyasa Times.

KAMA Florists director refused to comment on the matter while a Mrs. Kawerama, owner of Florist Decorators could not pick up her phones when contacted several times on both her TNM and Airtel lines.

Ironically, Nandolo, Chanza and Mitini Nkhoma were again at the centre of controversy when they made an unceremonious replacement on the entourage of people going to Germany for a European Union (EU) funded international trade project, Aware and Fair, tour early this year.

The multimillion kwacha project which is being implemented by the council turned out to be a self-enriching.

Between the month of May and June the project financers conducted a three-week familiarization tour for the BCC implementation team to Germany, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic in an effort to ensure that they are properly acquainted with the project.

According to our investigations each member who made the trip received US$5000 (about K1. 25million) and it was this massive allowance which made Chanza, who was not part of the project team, agitated until he bulldozed his way.

Using his authority, Chanza ordered Mitini-Nkhoma (project coordinator) to drop Project Accountant Alex Msyali who is Assistant Director of Finance and long time acting Director of Finance.

Other members dropped from the trip were Blantyre Urban Education Manager a Mrs. Msamati (whose office now falls under BCC) and former Director of Leisure and Culture who also acted as Chief Executive, Robert Kawiya.

Chanza replaced Msamati with a relation who is an agricultural extension worker from Ntchitsi and does not even work for the council so that he too could benefit from the windfall.

Others who made the trip were Mitini Nkhoma, himself, Nelson Mataka, the Project Consultant and Project Secretary, Lunzana Khanga, who is also Public Relations Manager the Council.

After the five names were submitted to the organizers without that of Kawiya, they sent him a special invitation for the tour which brought the number to six.

Though Kawiya is no longer with BCC the organizers still invited him because he pioneered the project and has rich knowledge about it.

Kawiya went into early retirement in 2010 after falling out of grace with the then Mlakho wa Alhomwe dominated government because he comes from the Central Region.

Further, revelations indicate that since last year there has been no activity relating to the project because the BCC did not want to involve Kawiya.

In order to fool the financiers, the only activity conducted by the traveling team was an awareness meeting at the Civic Center offices where BCC employees were briefed about the project for the first time on 19th May 2012 before organizing a press conference the following day to portray that the project was on course and properly marketed.

Some of the organizations targeted to benefit from the project are Small Coffee Farmers Trust, National Smallholder Farmers Association of Malawi, Sukambizi Tea Association Trust, Smallholder Macadamia Cooperative and Kasinthula Cane Growers.

The project started in Malawi last year following a long time sister city relationship between Blantyre and Germany Hannover, which is also implementing a similar project, aimed at achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MGDs) through fair trade.

Apart from Malawi and Germany, the project is also being implemented in other European countries like Poland, Hungary and Czech Republic.

Under the project, some Malawian Small and Medium Enterprises are linked with European organizations to sell their products at European markets with the objective of collectively marketing Malawi products there.

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