RBM awards K4 billion-worth of ICT tenders to foreign-owned companies against Chakwera’s directive to offer 60% contracts to Malawian-owned firms

Reserve Bank of Malawi has awarded all of its information and communications technology (ICT) tenders worth over K4 billion to foreign companies at the expense of competent Malawian-owned ICT service providers.
RBM announced its intentions in the print media to award tenders for Swift Infrastructure Upgrade to be shared between Technet and Mitra at a total value of close to K750 million.
Reliable sources in the industry reveal that Technet is a Zambian-owned company while Mitra is owned by a Rwandan Robert Benimana and Zimbabwean, Martin Masawi — which was recently under spotlight when RBM dubiously awarded them a tender despite revelation that they did not qualify.
RBM’s other intention to award a tender is for the Central Bank’s local area network (LAN) upgrade which has gone to Globe Internet Limited at close to K1.5 billion.
Tender for Automated Transfer System, e-Business Suite and Flexicube Upgrade has been given once more to Mitra Systems for US$1.7 million — which is over MK1.7 billion.
Thus giving all of the ICT services that Central Bank needs upgrading to non indigenous black Malawians at a total cost of K4 billion.
This is against what President Lazarus Chakwera campaigns for, that 60% of government business contracts should be given to competent Malawian-owned companies and a source within the ICT industry is of the opinion that “the President’s directives are just talk shows”.
“Private limited companies are offering business to Malawian-owned companies in support of President Chakwera’s campaign but it seems the Government agencies do not want to support the President,” said our source.
“We have competent Malawian-owned ICT service providers, who need to be supported for them to grow and for the government and the rest of the business industry to be supplied with best services.”
Just recently there was a public outcry on social media when Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) published its intention in print media to award for Microsoft Windows Licenses to Dimension Data of Botswana for US$1 million.
Our investigation — based from comments on social media — supply of Microsoft licenses are a basic ICT skill requirement and according to an expert in the industry “even someone who has just finished their university education can do and yet MRA wanted to award a contract of US$1 million to a Botswana company against the background of the number of competent ICT companies in Malawi”.
Recently, Malawi Communication Regulatory Authority (MACRA) suspended the award of tenders to a value of K14 billion to non-Malawian companies by Public Private Partnership Company (PPPC) because the companies did not meet the requirements of having at least 20% local shareholding.
PPPC decided to forsake both this 20% requirement and the President directive to give 60% businesses to locals.
Chakwera made it compulsory that there should be deliberate policies to protect the local players in the business after observing that the local players are at the mercy of foreign firms.
When contacted, Information and Communication Technology Association of Malawi (ICTAM) president, Bram Fudzulani — while emphasizing that RBM would best be in a position to respond as to why they opted for those firms — said they are equally astonished over the Central Bank’s decision.
However, he said: “Part of the austerity measures announced by the State President was that the Ministry of Finance was going to ensure that only those services/goods that cannot be accessed locally be given a go ahead to engage external firms.
“The case of this tender is a clear manifestation of how state agencies are disregarding the President’s authority, unless this was given a special clearance from the Ministry of Finance as per the President’s order on austerity measures.”
RBM’s decision is also coming at a backdrop of the legal tussle that the Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda has gone into with Fischer Consulting — a South African firm that was awarded tender to Malawi Traffic Information System (MalTIS) — an IT system which even a competent Malawian company could have supplied.
In conjunction with Motor Vehicle Spares and Accessories (Movesa), Fischer Consulting is failing to handover the system, five years after agreed initial handover time.
Last month, the AG was incredulous that an ICT contract was given to Movesa, a company with no ICT expertise, that subcontracted the deal to Fischer Consulting.
He told the media that through the breach of not handing over the MalTIS system, vehicles are dubiously being registered in South Africa by Movesa and Fischer Consulting and “being driven into the country to evade the payment of excise and import duty”.
Nyirenda indicated last month that his office would commence litigation against the consultant after Movesa was reluctant to engage with the AG to hand over the system since May this year.
In August 2021, the High Court sitting in Lilongwe ruled that RBM should re-tender contracts which were dubiously awarded to the same Mitra Systems it has awarded the Automated Transfer System, e-Business Suite and Flexicube Upgrade tender.
Justice Kenyatta Nyirenda heard in his court that Mitra did not qualify for bidding in the first place following an earlier determination from Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA) Review Committee, which ordered the Central Bank to retender the disputed tenders after one for the bidders, Sparc Systems, had lodged a complaint to PPDA having noticed serious irregularities in favour of Mitra Systems.
However, instead of executing the decision of the PPDA, the Central Bank proceeded to the High Court suing Sparc Systems Ltd, in a quest to manoeuvre and proceed to award to Mitra, and seeking nullification of the decision by PPDA and challenging the legality of the said decision ordering it to retender.
In his ruling, Justice Nyirenda upheld the decision by PPDA to have the bids re-tendered and was also amused with how RBM awarded Mitra Systems Limited the contracts when it was evident that one of the  requirements was to operate for more than five years.

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