Govt, Nankhumwa lock horns over house

Malawi’s leader of Opposition and former senior DPP minister Kondwani Nankhumwa is at loggerheads with the government over an institutional house the former bought from Tobacco Commission (TC) some four years ago in the opulent low density area in the capital, Lilongwe.

Nankhumwa, who risks losing his Area 10 house in Lilongwe, which he paid K125 million for it in 2018, is being accused of cutting corners in acquiring the property.

Nankhumwa: Risk losing his house

On one hand, Nankhumwa is arguing that he followed all the necessary legal procedures at the time of acquiring the said house.

On the other hand, the government through TC argues that Nankhumwa didn’t follow the procedures when purchasing the property, but rather, he used his political influence and power to buy the house at a lower price.

According to the documents, which Nyasa Times has in possession, TC is propagating to reposes the house from Nankhumwa on the basis that it was purchased without following due process.

The Tobacco Commission is further arguing that Nankhumwa bulldozed his way into buying the house as he was not even the highest bidder that should have been given the right to buy before the other potential buyers.

When contacted, Nankhumwa confirmed of the dispute, but could declined to be drawn for further comments in the matter further saying:

“All I can tell you for now is that I duly followed all processes and procedures and I don’t what wrong I did while buying the house and as the issue is being handled by my lawyer, I can’t say more.”

Nyasa Times has a letter from Tobacco Commission, which was sent to Nankhumwa, on June 17 2021, titled Settlement Proposal on Disposal of Plot Numbers 10/470 (Title Number Alimaunde 10/292) states that the evaluation of the bids and the award of the contract to Nankhumwa was not done by the structures mandated to do so under the Public Procurement and Disposal Authority (PPDA).

The letter, signed by the commissions Chief Executive Officer (CEO)Joseph Chidanti Malunga, says Nankhumwa was offered to buy the house although he was not the highest bidder and the price he paid was K25 million less than that of the highest bidder.

“It is our intention to resolve this matter amicably, without subjecting it to further legal process, which may include criminal proceedings against the persons involved since the actions complained of constitute offences under the PPDA Act,” reads the house in part, adding;

“We, therefore, on a without prejudice basis, propose that we resolve the matter by cancelling the entire sale, the institution will refund you the money paid as consideration for the sale.”

Responding to Tobacco Commission’s proposal, Nankhumwa’s lawyer Mkwima Mchizi, in a letter dated June 21 2021 addressed to the organisation’s CEO, Chidanti-Malunga, refused the offer, arguing that his client responded to a public bid advertised on March 17 2018, and that all processes were followed.

Reads letter in response: “Our client does not have any knowledge of the illegality alleged nor the fact that you [commission] were bound to accept the highest bidder as insinuated in your letter,” argues Nankhumwa’s lawyer.

Few months ago, the Office of the Public Protector, the office of the Ombudsman in its report into alleged abuse of office at the commission, which was released in May this year, faulted the sale of two institutional houses, including the one bought by Nankhumwa—and another one in Chigumula in Blantyre which was bought by Jayshree Patel — saying the properties were sold against a ban on sale of institutional houses.

According to a government circular dated September 30 2003, Reference number; MH/HOS/03/05/85, addressed to all controlling officers, a meeting of some controlling officers on September 12, 2003 resolved that all categories of institutional houses were not for sale.

“In the meantime, the Ministry of Housing is seeking Cabinet decision on the same matter. When a decision is made, a circular will be issued,” reads the communication which was signed by then secretary for Housing Hawa Ndilowe.

Harry Mkandawire, Tobacco Commission Chairperson recently told the Nation newspaper that that the commission is ready and willing to refund both Nankhumwa and Patel their money, and repossess the houses.

Mkandawire further said that the Commission’s board referred the matter to police for investigation, adding that the Ombudsman’s report directed the board to take remedial action to address the findings of the audit into the disposal of the property.

Mkandawire said that Patel agreed to be refunded her money but, also, requested additional funds for some of the renovations done to the house.

“As board, we are not ready to pay for the renovations because title deeds for the house were not changed, we still technically own the house, ” Mkandawire, who is MCP’s second vice president said.

Patel confirmed, in a telephone interview on Tuesday, that she is ready to surrender back the house and get her money.

The Tobacco commission wants to cancel the sale of the house for Patel, on Plot Number CG88 (Title Number Chigumula 22), on allegations that she did not bid for the property and it was sold at a price below valuation and at an amount lower than other bidders.

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