Phoya, Banda query govt on ‘spy machine’

Blantyre Rural East MP Henry Duncan Phoya (HDP) quarried government why it had to pay US$6.9 million for the ‘spy machine’ (Consolidated ICT Regulatory Management System -CIRMS) when the same machine costs other countries like Gabon only US$2 million.

Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) had to pay US$6.9 million to a US firm Agilis International when they were offered it at a cheap US$2 million by another firm.

Commenting after Minister of Information and Civic education, Patricia Kaliati, presented a ministerial statement defending Macra’s decision to introduce the CIRMS machine; Phoya faulted the procurement procedure in the infamous project.

Phoya: Procurement scandal for spy machine

Phoya, a lawyer and former justice minister, said the purchase of the machine did not even pass through the procurement department.

On his part, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) Nkhotakota Central MP  Edwin Banda said MACRA were invading into people’s private life by intercepting electronic mail, monitoring phone texts and listening to people’s phone conversation through the machine.

Banda, a lawyer, claimed he is in possession of private email conversations, hijacked by Macra.

“The Minister of Information should not cheat the nation. MACRA has the capability to read people’s private messages and listen to their conversations,” Banda told the House.

“I personally saw and read the e-mails from MACRA which they tapped,” he claimed.

Banda said the emails were objective material evidence that CIRMS device is going to invade people’s privacy contrary to the constitutional rights of citizens.

Leader of the House, George Chaponda, standing on a point of order, demanded that the lawmaker should tender his evidence to substantiate his allegation.

Banda, who had earlier said he would be responsible for his remarks based on the House Standing Orders, insisted he has “evidence” of his claims.

First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Jones Chingola, ordered Banda to present to the House by Monday December 5 at 2pm the emails to add weight to his claims.

In her ministerial statement, Kalitai said CIRMS machine is not meant to be tapping phone calls from the general public.

Minister said the machine is meant to be monitoring the billing system of network service providers such as Airtel, TNM and MTL so that they should be able to contribute positively to the development of the country from the ‘huge’ profits which they make.

Operators protested the installation of the equipment to monitor people’s phones. They queried Macra that subscribers will be intimidated to use their networks since they will be monitored by the regulator through the device and that it will be interference into the privacy of their customers.

Nyasa Times were the first to reveal about the spy machine project.


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