Malawi Congress Party (MCP) leader Lazarus Chakwera has accused the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)-led government of influencing the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) to award a contract of purchasing generators to a company with links to the party’s members, saying leaders are busy enriching themselves through corrupt means and are failing to fight corruption because “they themselves are thieves and corrupt”.
Chakwera told a news conference he held in Lilongwe on Thursday that MCP has stumbled on documents indicating that some State House officials influenced the Chief Secretary to the government Justice Lloyd Muhara to award 78 megawatts stand-by electricity generators contract to a company of their choice.
Escom, the distributor of electricity, messed up the procurement of generators that were expected to add 78 megawatts (MW) to the national grid to minimise the intensity of current blackouts following the scandal.
Chakwera said instead of sincerely working to resolve the situation, President Mutharika’s cronies have used the situation to enrich themselves.
“Whether this is with or without the blessing of the State President, we do not know yet. However, it is surprising that the State President has remained silent and has failed to act against on the allegation of serious misconduct of senior officials in his own government and ESCOM. He seems to be sleeping on the job and he cannot smell the rat in his own backyard and the President has opted for public relations stunts that bear no fruits to suffering Malawians,” said Chakwera.
Chakwera, who is also leader of opposition in parliament, said the country has been told and made to believe that government is procuring generators through ESCOM that will generate 78 megawatts of electricity by 31 December 2017.
“According to documents in our possession, this arrangement would cost, in total, USD73, 978,633 (roughly USD74million) which is an equivalent of MK54, 374,295,255 (at an exchange rate of USD1/MK735),” he said.
In the initial procurement process, nine companies, including JocobsenElekro AS, Aggreko, AKSA Enerji Rental Power, APR Energy, Almagamated Power Solution (APS), Altaaq Global CAT, So Energy International, Greenheart Energy Limited and Sino Hydro were shortlisted for supply of three generators that were to be stationed in three lots each at Mapanga in Blantyre, Kanengo in Lilongwe and Chinyama in Kasungu.
In December 2016 Escom evaluation committee recommended that lots one and two in Mapanga and Kanengo, respectively, be awarded to APR Energy with evaluated respective prices of $34.6 million and $24.9 million while lot three at Chinyama in Kasungu was recommended for award to Aggreko International Projects for $18.9 million.
But when the bids’ evaluation team presented its report to the internal procurement committee (IPC) for approval, the evaluation recommendations were not upheld.
Chakwera citing objective material evidence which he has said: “dAs it has become a tradition in the Mutharika government, some company (called APAC Energy) was included even though it was not part of the initial bidders list. Aggreko emerged as the successful bidder to provide generators in 3 selected sites in Blantyre(Mapanga), Lilongwe(Kanengo) and Kasungu(Chinyama) to the tune of USD73,978,633.”
According to information Chakwera gave reporters, on 12th April 2017 ESCOM sought a “No Objection” letter from Office of the Director of Public Procurement (ODPP) through letter referenced ESC 617/RT/S/FY 2016-17 and that on 25th April 2017 a “No Objection” was granted by the ODPP to ESCOM.
“ESCOM thus went into negotiations with Aggreko for the other terms and conditions of the contract. ESCOM and Aggreko subsequently signed a contract.
“It turned out that State House strangely preferred to have two companies, whose names we have, to be awarded the contract. In fact, two of Mutharika’s own charges at State House, allegedly advised the two companies to write ESCOM BOARD chairperson to complain that the tendering process was wrong,” disclosed Chakwera.
He said the truth of the matter is that the two of Mutharika’s own aides were hoping to “get a cut from the deal” and t the two companies did as instructed.
“ESCOM then wrote ODPP on 7 August 2017 seeking guidance as the contract had already been awarded to Aggreko and ODPP advised that at this point nothing could be done.
“Still not satisfied, State House officials ordered the Chief Secretary to ask ODPP to find fault with Aggreko award so that the contract is subsequently cancelled and then awarded to one of their preferred two companies.
“ODPP complied and subsequently launched an investigation into the tendering process. On 28th August 2017 ODPP wrote a report to the Chief Secretary faulting the process and effectively cancelling the ESCOM/Aggreko contract.”
Chakwera continued to say that Chief Secretary eventually ordered ESCOM to cancel the tender. Thus ESCOM wrote Aggreko on 7 September 2017 advising them that the tender had been cancelled.
“The Chief Secretary instructed Electricity Generation Company (Egenco) to take over the procurement process since ESCOM had failed. For the record, the Chief Secretary is the Board Chairman of EGENCO and State House charges saw that they would easily influence the Chief Secretary,” said Chakwera.
He said EGENCO thus recommenced the tendering process where ids were called for and evaluation done.
“Unfortunately, the State House preferred company did not bid. While waiting for the results of the evaluation process, on Tuesday 24th October 2017 at 5.30pm a meeting was convened by the Chief Secretary involving the ESCOM Board Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer in the presence of Dr. Collins Magalasi and two representatives of a company called Altaaqa (which is the one that did not bid) at Ryalls Hotel. Clear instructions were given to ESCOM to award the generator contract to Altaaqa even though they did not satisfy the procurement requirements as per document in our possession,” claimed Chakwera during the news conference.
Chakwera said Altaaqa was consistently number 4 under the ESCOM evaluation process and they never submitted any bid under EGENCO bidding process.
“To back up this meeting at Ryalls hotel, the ‘beneficiaries’ of transaction convinced President Mutharika to stage a joint meeting of ESCOM and EGENCO Boards of Directors which he subsequently attended on Wednesday 25th October 2017 in Blantyre.
“During this staged board meeting the ESCOM Board chairman was overheard telling the President that the Board and Management were ready to implement the directive he (the President) made through the Chief Secretary to single source from Altaaqa. Thus Altaaqa which never bid at EGENCO and was consistently number 4 was awarded contract in single sourcing,” said Chakwera.
The leader of opposition also said President Mutharika lied to Malawians on Sunday 29th October 2017 at the Mlakho wa Alhomwe annual festival, that one generator had been shipped into the country when none of that had happened.
“He even said that another one was being shipped into the country and would be in by 1 December 2017. This too was a lie too,” Chakwera said.
He said as Mutharika was delivering his speech at the Mlakho wa Alhomwe on 29th October, 2017, Altaaqa was actually cancelling the contract due to what they called “variations to our Terms and Conditions that are not acceptable” through a letter dated 29th October 2019.
Chakwera said there are many questions his party has raised why the Chief Secretary Muhara involved in ESCOM procurement.
“This is clear case of abuse of office, interference and misprocurement,” he said.
Chakwera said from the scanal it clearly shows that the Mutharika-led government is more concerned with enriching members of the DPP than the plight of Malawians.
“They have deliberately created a crisis with the sole purpose of embezzling taxpayers’ funds. This government does not care about the cost Malawians are paying for its costs. Ordinary Malawians are paying for their dear lives just for DPP officials to enrich themselves,” said Chakwera.
“ In truth, what we are calling government is simply a cartel whose raison d’etre is self-enrichment,” he said.
Chakwera said President Muthairka is either “inept at leadership and is completely clueless of what his cadres are doing in destroying the country or he is complicit in these nefarious schemes.”
He sternly reminded President Mutharika of the country’s sacrosanct constitutional principle which states that all legal and political authority of the State derives from the people of Malawi and should be exercised solely to serve and protect their interest.
“Indeed, the Constitution binds him to exercise his presidential powers only in accordance with his responsibilities to the people of Malawi. Needless to say, President Mutharika is exercising his power and authority merely to serve and protect the interest of the DPP and its cadres. He has clearly abandoned his responsibilities to Malawians,” said Chakwera.
He urged Malawians to be “vigilant and call their leader to account”.
Said Chakwera: “We cannot be indifferent to the continued plunder of our nation’s wealth by President Mutharika’s small corterie of sycophants and tribesmen. As the Leader of Opposition I shall not tire in my mission to call out those that want Malawians to continue wallowing in poverty as they continue to unjustly enrich themselves.”
The leader of opposition has demanded a public enquiry into this stand-by generator deal.
“It is my sincere hope that those that are found fallen foul of the laws of the country shall be prosecuted accordingly,” he said.
Malawi currently is experiencing extended hours of blackouts that have seen some areas going between 15 to18 hours without electricity.
Chakwera is however yet to highlight on the Party’s policies on energy.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :