The demand by two suppliers that signed uniform supply deals with the Immigration Department in 2012— Africa Commercial Agency and Reliance Trading Company— and now want taxpayers to pay them K53 billion, which is more than five times the agreed contract amount, has taken a new twist as Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament has demanded the companies director Abdul Karim Batawarara to appear before it on February 1 with documentation.
Batawarara, a controversial businessman, is being accused of charging exorbitant prices as PAC chairperson Alekeni Menyani said claims in the deal such as a single uniform shirt for Immigration Officer is pegged at about K60 000 and in some case a belt quoted at K100 000.
Were these designer Gucci shirts and belts for Immigration, we wonder the astronomical prices,” said Menyani in an interview with Nyasa Times.
He said his committee will demand to see documentation from the supplier to support their claim and they would like to physically check the samples to ascertain if they match the quoted prices.
Menyani said PAC would also check the tax invoices the Batawarara companies received from Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) to warrant them to seek a waiver and the bill of landing from the the manufacturer.
He said apart from Karim Batawarara, PAC has ordered top government officials in Immigration, the Attorney General and Secretary to the Treasury as well as directors of the two companies to appear before the committee on February 1 2019 to give evidence on the legitimacy of the payment claim totalling K53.9 billion for the supply and delivery of Immigration uniforms and other accessories to the Immigration Department.
Menyani states that PAC is invoking its powers according to Section 9 of the National Assembly (Powers and Privilege Act) to summon the government officials and directors or secretaries of Africa Commercial Agency and Reliance Trading Company.
Government is now fighting this claim, believing that both contracts—signed for just over K9 billion in March 2012—fell off automatically when five years elapsed without the two companies delivering the goods despite the department placing orders on April 10 2012.
Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) also called for the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA) to investigate the award of the contracts in question as well as for PPDA to, with immediate effect, disbar Africa Commercial Agency and Reliance Trading Company and any firms associated with Batatawala from participating in any public tender in Malawi.