What was raised as a matter of great concern at a stakeholder consultative meeting as a conflict of interest in the outsourcing of vehicle inspection services — held on March 8, 2016 at the Ministry of Transport — has now come to pass as the local garages are being made to pay to access the Malawi Traffic Information System (MalTIS).
Information that we have received indicate that vehicle inspection garages are being billed to be connected to the system because the consultants who built it, Movesa & Fischer Consulting, still cling on to it.
But red flags were raised way back in 2016 over the consultants, Motor Vehicle Spares and Accessories (Movesa) in Malawi and Fischer Consulting from South Africa, at a consultative meeting as regards to Auto Tech, a Lilongwe garage which is owned by Movesa.
A number of concerns were raised at the 2016 meeting as regards to Autotech as one of the garages granted the licence as the minutes from it indicate that stakeholders were of the strong belief that there was conflict of interest on the part of Auto Tech to be granted licence to operate as a vehicle inspection garage because the owners of the company also own Movesa.
Movesa at that time was the only company importing number plates and was also in partnership with Fischer Consulting in the MalTIS system.
However, when contacted in June this year, owner of Movesa, Moshin Salim distanced his company from the MalTIS system, saying the logistics partnership he had with Fischer Consortium ended last year.
Yet in his response to our queries in June, spokesperson for the Ministry of Transport and Public Works, Andrew Mthiko kept referring Movesa and Fischer Consortium as the consultants — who are clinging on to the system after failing to meet meet three deadlines over a period of three years to hand over the MalTIS to the Malawi government.
But in that 2016 consultative meeting, which Mthiko was in attendance, the stakeholder garages raised the concern that they envisaged a conflict of interest on the part of Movesa as a garage that was mandated as a vehicle inspection outsource.
During the meeting, the Directorate of Road Traffic and Safety Services (DRTSS), presented the aim and progress of outsourcing of vehicle inspection that comprised requirements to satisfy to become a vehicle inspection station; legal requirement for registering a vehicle inspection and list of garages that had expressed interest.
During discussions, as according to the minutes, the stakeholder garages pointed they were reluctant to invest so much in vehicle inspection equipment until they get an assurance or commitment that they will be licensed when they meet all requirements.
They also wanted the government’s protection in terms of number of lanes licensed to each garage; number of garages licensed and also a provision of an incentive in the form of a tax holiday. This was to make sure that they should be able to recoup the return on their investment.
The garages, according to the minutes, were sceptical on the part of Auto Tech as an outsourced service provider on the basis of conflict of interest since it is owned by Movesa, which was then also then in a consortium with Fischer was that is upgrading the MalTIs system.
The meeting believed that Auto Tech would deliberately sabotage their connectivity to MalTIs so as to enhancing competition over the rest.
This seems to come to pass as sources from the licensed outsourced garages indicate that Movesa & Fischer Consulting are billing the other licensed garages to be connected to the MalTIs system — which is supposed to be free once the garages meet the requirements for their licences.
A source privy to the matter who declined to be mentioned, said huge sums of money are required to meet the requirements need to be granted the operating licences but it’s quite “disheartening that government is being held ransom by the foreign builders of the system”.
“After meeting all requirements that involve spending huge sums of money, why do we still have to pay to access the government system also at a huge cost?” questioned our source.
“It’s very perplexing that the government is failing to control this arrangement because the consultants are still clinging on to the system and dictating the concerned garages.”
The 2016 consultative meeting also expressed surprise that Auto Tech was in advanced stage in investing a lot of money towards being granted licences and was suspected to have had inside information of the assurance of being granted it.
Despite several reminders when contacted after June 23, Mthiko, spokesperson for the Ministry of Transport and Public Works, never responded to answer the issues raised by the stakeholders three years down the line.
We wanted to know why Auto Tech was granted licence to operate as a vehicle inspection garage when the owners of the company also own Movesa and why a licensed garage that automatically gets it to have connectivity to MalTIS system is being billed by Movesa and Fischer Consulting.
Mthiko also was asked to respond as to what is so special of Movesa and Auto Tech that the government is being so lenient on these two companies.
In July, the county’s Vice-President Saulos Chilima, who is also minister of Economic Planning and Public Sector Reforms, ordered DRTSS to fix the MalTIS system in order to ease congestion.
He made the statement after meeting Minister of Transport and Public Works and his management team to, what he said on his Facebook wall, motivate them and obtain a buy-in on the public sector reforms.
He had said it was disappointing to note that the quick wins that were obtained at the directorate have backtracted, saying this has seen the congestion that was nearly eliminated.
“I have since implored DRTSS to ensure that the system handovers from the consultant to the department are expedited and completed by September, 2020,” he said then.
He also said that he had asked the department to prioritise establishing a special vehicle inspection service bay for trucks and buses to ensure that revenue from this service does not fall through the cracks.
“It is this administration’s goal that sources of revenue must be efficient if we are to develop this country,” Chilima is quoted as saying, while welcoming a proposal for devolution of the transport sector and was ready to support concrete plans to be put forward.
DRTSS is supposed to be solely responsible for authorisation of the MalTIs system connectivity since it is government property.
Movesa & Fischer Consulting was first given a January 2018 deadline to hand over the system and when it did not meet it, a fresh deadline of June 2019 was made in January that year.
In November last year, Mthiko told the media that “the development, testing and handover of the modules as stipulated in the contract between the Ministry and Movesa & Fischer Consulting were steps towards handover of the management of the system” by the end of the year.
But eight months down the line, Mthiko still said the handover process was still underway, saying the “upgrade of the MalTIS was implemented in modular format”.
“In as much as we have seen success completion and delivery of some modules in the MalTIS as stipulated in the contract, the consultant has however, not completed upgrading other modules and some operational errors are still persistent.
“The System’s source code, firewall, database and help desk management have not been handed over to the Ministry of Transport and Public Works,” Mthiko had said in an earlier interview.
In the media report last November, the then DRTSS Director Fergus Gondwe had told The Nation newspaper then that government still owed Fischer Consulting some payment but did not disclose how much.
This was confirmed by Mthiko that the Ministry “has not completed payments to the consultant until the outstanding modules and system errors are resolved”.
It was also reported that Movesa & Fischer Consulting was supposed to facilitate skills transfer of the MalTIS system, and asked if this was done, Mthiko confirmed that the contract required that the consultant should deliver a complete skills transfer program covering both operational and technical support required to manage the system.
“The delivery of skills to ICT officers in the Ministry was partially done and not conclusive. The element of skills transfer that was not completed is among the outstanding areas that the Ministry is awaiting the consultant to deliver for the effective management of the system once it is handed over.”
He explained that Movesa and the South African Fischer Consortium is a joint venture of the two companies.
Asked how the MalTIS system came into Malawi and if there was a proper bidding process to identify the consultant to create the system, Mthiko said “all competetive procurement processes were followed” and that the Ministry “formulated Terms of Reference which were a basis for calling for expression interests for firms that were interested”.
“The firms interested submitted technical and financial proposals that were subjected to scrutiny by Internal Procurement Committee and a successful evaluated bidders was offered a contract to upgrade the MalTIS.
“Call for expression of interest was advertised in the national media and all the procurement processes were vetted by the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA).”
Reports reaching us are that the firm Movesa originated from Mozambique but the owner, Moshin Salim said his company is 100% Malawian owned and he distanced himself from the MalTIS delays, saying the logistics partnership he had with Fischer Consortium ended a year ago.
Not long ago, Malawian firms were not pleased over Movesa’s monopoly in the contract with the government to embosse vehicle registration plates.
Mthiko, while not confirm the reports that Movesa is a Mozambican firm, said there are currently more number plate embosser companies and government department in the country.
“Currently there are two licenced blank number plate importers and that the DRTSS advertised in media in April, 2021 a call for applicants to provide this service and “the response has been so far very good,” he said.
He added that such firms’ licences are granted by the Directorate of Road Traffic and Safety Services (DRTSS) as mandated by the Road Traffic Act, 1997 to import blank number plates and also to licence Malawi registered companies number plates embossers.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :