The civil society organisations (CSOs) under the Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) and the Forum for National Development (FND) have written the Competition and Fair Trading Commission to investigate “unfair monopoly” practices which Mallory and Maneno Joint venture have been doing.
Malawi’s competition policy was adopted in 1997, with the broad objective of creating an enabling environment for businesses, promoting economic efficiency and protecting consumer welfare. To ensure effective implementation of the competition policy, Parliament enacted the Competition and Fair Trading Act (CFTA) in 1998 and brought it into force on 1 April 2000.
According to the letter seen by Nyasa Times, which has also been copied to the office of Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB), and government agencies and departments, COMESA and the European Union, the HRCC is asking authorites to take “appropriate action” on what they claims is unfair and uncompetitive trade practices by Mallory International Co.
HRCC says the body has been coming across disturbing information within the text book industry in pursuit to establish why government is failing to supply necessary text books in the secondary schools on time
“As human rights organizations we have taken this stand noting that the actions of Mallory International and Maneno JV is directly impacting on the right to education among pupils in Malawi and we take it upon ourselves to ensure that the access and delivery of education must not be impinged,” reads the letter in part.
HRCC says every time Mallory International loses a bid to supply text books to another company, they embark on a crusade to destroy and damage the reputation of the Competitors.
According to HRCC, the company uses each and every means including inside trading, threats, and reporting to development partners and raising unfounded accusations of corruption on the tenders against the Government.
In the letter it is pointed out that the said actions, have been going on for some time and that the company has been going overboard to start discrediting other players in the industry.
In the petition it is also spelt out that evidence also show that Mallory and Maneno Joint Venture has unusual access to competitors tender documents submitted in a closed bid documents where they use its opportunity of being housed in United Kingdom and also having enjoyed the monopoly in the book sector for some time as “a blank cheque” for them to be the only player in the text book industry and uses intimidatory tendencies against the Government through threats including reports of their alleged manipulation of development partners to stop supporting the Government of Malawi.
The petition has also pointed out that the pity on all this matter is disregard of the Company on the repercussions of their actions on the education sector and right to education of the children of Malawi.
In the document HRCC says the actions that the Company undertook in a similar manner under a World Bank Project in 2013 led to the cancellation of the entire bid.
HRCC says is aware the tender was cancelled by the World Bank after Pearson Publishers were coerced to lodge a complaint to the World Bank alleging corruption after a local entity had secured the bid.
An example has been cited of 2017 that when the Company lost another text book bid to a local company, they went overboard to mobilize the Publishers to deny publisher’s Authorization to the local company to an extent that one publisher Jhango ultimately denied the authorization which led for the publisher’s books to be taken out of the list of text books in Malawi.
“When the Company never succeeded on the matter, they pestered the Government through the Ministry of Education to cancel the bid in their favour. The Company further influenced the Africa Development Bank (AfDB) to launch a Corruption investigation into the bid of which up to now the basis cannot be established.”
Presently Mallory and Maneno Joint venture has continued to frustrate the delivery of text books to an extent that Pearson Publisher’s continue to withhold text books while they were already paid for the service also on similar Corruption claims.
Surprisingly the Director of Pearson had to travel to Malawi, sought an audience with Ministry of Education and made demands to cancel the contract with a local company in favour of Mallory and Maneno Joint venture. Pearson has not released the books, neither returned the payments made for the books despite Malawi Government making it point blank that nothing will change in the contract, the letter says.
Meanwhile, Mallory and Joint Ventures has started bullying another contract for the Supply of Textbooks for 21 Community Day Secondary Schools for Improving Secondary Education in Malawi (ISEM) – Publication reference EuropeAid/139174/1H/SUP/MW which has been awarded to Tradewings World Wide Limited.
“We are reliably informed that typical of a bad loser, the Company has also lodged a complaint with the donors, EU to investigate the contract and suspend it. The evidence the Company is using point to inside trading on their part and unfair trading practices. What baffles us most is that Mallory and Maneno Joint venture is not concerned with the impact of their actions and its contribution to the dwindling standards of education as they continue to hold Malawi and in particular, innocent learners at ransom,” HRCC letter reads.
It said the company focus on making money at the expense of poor Malawian learners which is a violation of the rights to education and prosperous future of Malawian youth.
“ In the current two contracts, the first text books have delayed due to the issues that the Company has been doing and already there are indicators that the EU contract would delay if not cancelled altogether by actions of Mallory and Maneno Joint Venture. In all these circumstances, the main losers are the pupils and learners in Malawi who are being denied their right to education. It is based on the foregoing, that we write your commission to immediately investigate the action of Mallory International in the text book industry.”
The human rights grouping has proposed to that the company should be banned operating its business in Malawi.
“As Civil Society Organizations, We are contemplating of further proposing to the Malawi Government for the Company not be allowed to participate in any tender of text books in the country until the issues we are raising have been clarified, addressed and stopped forthwith. We cannot allow a company whose focus is to make profit, make money at the expense of our learners.”
However, Mallory International denies wrong doing and any involvement in the cartel.
Meanwhile, published reports indicate African Development Bank (AfDB) has written Treasury to stop payment in the multi-billion kwacha textbooks contract between the Ministry of Education and a local firm Inspired Technology Consultants (ICTC) until investigations are concluded.
The development comes Pearson is holding on to books meant for ICTS over allegations of a fraudulent bank guarantee letter from the consolidator.
The development has angered the ICTC managing Director Jane Nthakomwa who has described the development as ‘donor interference’ in an internal matter.
According to her, ICTC has a contract with the Malawi Government, and not the donor (AfDB).
“Our competitors have used every means to frustrate this contract, including using the bank. AfDB need not interfere; let the Malawi Government handle this issue. Why should they stop payment? We know this is a battle against us, but I can assure you, we procedurally acquired this contract following all the steps.
“Sadly, we are a Malawian company fought by international companies which would like to monopolise the business and they are doing every trick to frustrate our effort,” said Nthakomwa according to quotes reported by Nation on Sunday.
HRCC Chairperson Robert Mkwezalamba said they also “surprised” with AfDB move to meddle into the state of affairs of the country.
“It’s time the AfDB should allow systems to operate freely without interference. Our worry has always been the plight of the end users of the whole project who happens to be students, this clearly shows that the delayed process in delivery and conclusion of the whole contract will affect students right to education, we know where all this pressure is coming from,” said Mkwezalamba.
The High Court in Lilongwe recently ordered the graft-busting body ACB to investigate how ICTC won the tender.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :