Minister Sangala in multi-million Kwacha TEP scam

Malawi’s Minister of  Internal Affairs and Public Safety Aaron Sangala is embroidered in a Temporary Employment Permit (TEP) scandal where he is allegedly extorting millions of Kwacha from applicants who have exceeded two applications.

Highly-placed sources at the Internal Affairs and Public Safety ministry confided in Nyasa Times on Sunday that contrary to the Immigration Act, Sangala recently advised the Chief Immigration Officer that all TEPs for expatriates whose renewals have exceeded twice be referred to him.

According to section 25 (1) of the Immigration Act on Temporary Employment Permit, “the Chief Immigration Officer or such other immigration officer as may be authorized by him in that behalf, may, if he is so authorized generally or specially by the Minister, issue on the application of a person who wishes to reside within an area of Malawi specified by the Minister, for the purpose of engaging in an occupation specified by the Minister, a temporary employment permit authorizing him, together with his wife and children under the age of eighteen years and dependent relatives, and subject to such conditions as may be prescribed, to reside within that area for the purpose of engaging in that occupation for a period of not less than six months or more than two years”.

Sangala: Implicated

Sub-section 2 provides that “the Minister may, FROM TIME TO TIME, UPON APPLICATION, renew a temporary employment permit issued under subsection (1) for a similar period or similar periods if he is satisfied that the holder of the permit is still engaged in the employment for which the permit was issued at the date of expiry of such permit”.

The Nyasa Times source said contrary to the laws, Sangala is directly contacting such applicants through his secretary, a Mrs. Phwitiko and a ‘private agent’ Manfred Jimu, soliciting bribes from them if their applications were to be approved.

Jimu allegedly demands K700, 000 (US$4,000) from each applicant and when it is paid, he remits K400, 000 (US$2,285) to the minister.

When contacted on Sunday, Jimu said he could not discuss TEP matters on the phone and advised this reporter to meet him on Monday, 11:30 am at Mount Soche Hotel in Blantyre.

“I am just coming in from Zomba; TEP is a sensitive matter; we cannot be discussing such a matter on the phone,” Jimu said, advising that if this reporter wished to meet the minister, he was ready to facilitate such a meeting.

A few minutes later, Jimu called Nyasa Times to seek clarification on the kind of issue he was being interviewed on.

When it was put to him that he was aiding the Internal Affairs and Public Security minister in soliciting bribes from TEP applicants, he strongly denied the allegation, saying he was merely an employee of Sunbird Mount Soche Hotel.

“I am a party person (Democratic Progressive Party) in Ndirande. I do not know anything about TEPs. I know Honourable Sangala; he is a man of high integrity,” said Jimu, insisting to meet this reporter at Mouth Soche Hotel on Monday at 11:30 am.

Ironically, Sangala is also a legislator in Ndirande Township, Malabada Constituency.

According to a sourced letter reference number IM/IA/02/2/VOL.XXXV/272, dated 12th August 2011 from the Secretary for Internal Affairs and Public Security, signed by P. B. Thamando, the Chief Immigration Officer is directed that the applications for Temporary Employment Permits whose renewals have exceeded twice for the following person Ares (sic) pended for tête-à-tête with the Honourable Minister.

Among the listed applicants are Mr. Sanjay Nagr (RAIPLY Malawi Ltd), file number 67336 (third renewal); Mrs. Yolande Smit (Phoenix School), file number 58966 (fourth renewal); Mr. Manojkuman Nag (Polypack Limited), file number 53368 (fifth renewal); Mr. Jean Mary E. Macluaghlin (St. Andrews International Primary School), file number 55584 (fifth renewal); and Jeffrey K. Polglase (Baptist Mission in Malawi), file number 44882 (fifth renewal), among others.

Thamando confirmed to have appended his signature to the above-mentioned letter, but said he did it under “orders from above”.

According to information gathered by Nyasa Times, there are currently 342 files for applications exceeding two renewals. There are also currently 581 completely new and unprocessed applications in the custody of the minister.

According to the source, Sangala, personally and through his agents, is also forcing TEP applicants that have exceeded two applications to acquire Malawian citizenship, contrary to the laws. He is alleged to be demanding K3.5 million (US$20, 000) from each applicant.

One of the applicants attested the minister’s secretary, Mrs. Phwitiko called him on his mobile requesting if he could meet the minister in person for the speedy processing of his application. He declined to see the minister, arguing he had followed all the necessary requirements in his application.

A senior Internal Affairs official in Lilongwe said withholding TEP applications for an unnecessarily long time deprives the country rapid social and economic growth. For example, he said each TEP application attracts K120, 000 (US$685) and that if there are 342 TEP renewal applications, it translate into K4, 104,000 (US$34,514).

“This is sending a wrong signal to investors on the ease of acquiring resident permits for doing business in Malawi; unnecessary delays result in loss of revenue for the Department of Immigration, which government needs in order to implement the zero-deficit budget,” said the official, preferring anonymity.

Sangala was unreachable on his mobile phone so was the Chief Immigration Officer Elvis Thodi when Nyasa Times attempted to seek their comments on the scandal.

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