Looking at headline stories of local weekend newspapers on August 6, 2016, one cannot fail to see the building up of a seemingly sticky case of controversy surrounding the bidding process of a tender to construct Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (MERA) headquarters office in the country’s capital, Lilongwe.
Both Malawi News and Weekend Nation featured stories in which MERA’s boss, Mr Ralph Kamoto appears to have a case against the probing of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) into the transparency of the tendering processes, especially following an official complaint by a concerned citizen to the ACB Director, a copy of which we have in our possession.
There are a few things that leave a lot to be desired as the ordinary citizen attempts to digest what has come out in the media on this tender and the case the Anti Corruption Bureau opened to probe clear irregularities.
First, we notice that the recurrent narrative from the MERA CEO, Mr Kamoto, summed up in a letter to the Attorney General, where the former is alleging that ‘a senior officer of the ACB threatened’ him with unspecified actions if he does not change a contract awarded to one company to his preferred company Segocoa.
ACB embarked on a probe into MERA’s headquarters facility bidding, following complaints from concerned citizens who questioned some alleged strange decisions that tampered with what would otherwise be an open and fair process.
It is alleged that the new CEO of MERA arrived at the organization at a time when a bidding of the construction of MERA’s headquarters was completed and the Internal Procurement Committee (IPC) agreed that a company known as S R Nicholas Ltd was the right winner of the award. The contract award was supported by a letter of ‘No Objection’ from the office of the Director of Public Procurement (ODPP).
Upon assuming the highest office at MERA, Kamoto dissolved the Internal Procurement Committee that approved of the award to S R Nicholas Ltd and setup a new one. The MERA CEO ‘sat’ on S R Nicholas Ltd’s letter of ‘no objection’ until it expired and cancelled the offer.
A new tendering process was initiated where Terrastone Construction Limited suspiciously turned out to be the preferred bidder when again this time around, Segocoa Anhui Construction company emerged as the lowest bidder and met all technical requirements. With all these facts before him, the MERA boss still influenced his newly formed IPC to pick Terrastone.
Following these events, a number of aggrieved parties and concerned citizens wrote the ACB to get to the bottom of why such decisions were made, after seeking to and failing to get the same answers from MERA.
A close look into what newspaper carried over the weekend leave one with a perception that the MERA boss is attempting to single out one man from ACB to throw his allegations on. On the contrary, the ACB has remained focused and professional in handling the cases at hand that were put to light by citizens.
One would also easily isolate a possible plot to hide certain breaches and irregularities surrounding the award of contracts for the construction of MERA headquarters in Lilongwe. Kamoto’s inclusion of high political offices to solidify his case against further probe into the matter is suspicious. Especially coming at a time the Anti Corruption Bureau applied to renew its restriction notice served on April 26 2016 from the Courts, in order to interview members of the bid evaluation committee.
As it is, there is no law that restricts the Bureau from carrying out investigations.