Youth and Society (YAS), a vocal non-governmental organization fighting for the rights of Malawians has said it will not back off on demanding that business mogul Abdul Karim Batawalala to reimburse K585 million to government which it is believed was fraudulently paid to him in respect of various contracts between the Malawi Police Service (MPS) and his seven companies, after it was said he was cleared by any wrongdoing by the National Audit Office (NAO).
Batawalala was accused of knowingly receiving money from the Malawi Government through police under Procurement and Distribution of Police Uniforms in the 2001/2002 and 2004/2005 fiscal years.
The Mzuzu-based civil society organisation (CSO) through lawyer Bright Theu of Ritz Attorneys, argued that the money was obtained through invoicing for goods never supplied to MPS, excess charges, overpayments and returned goods whose invoices were not reversed.
But in a letter to the organization’s executive director, Ritz Attorneys-at-Law managing partner, Lusungu Gondwe, advised the vocal organization to close the case unless they gave “compelling further evidence.”
“We have received a letter from Messrs Nampota & Company dated August 10, 2018 acting on behalf of Mr. Abdul Karim (their client) the letter is self-explanatory. In short, Messrs Nampota & Company advises that the National Audit Office carried out further verification in 2012 and confirmed that their client performed the contract,” wrote Gondwe in one of the letters.
But YAS executive director, Charles Kajoloweka, said in a statement issued Tuesday and made available to Nyasa Times that they learnt that their lawyers are conflicted to proceed with the matter on account of a prior retainership agreement with Abdul Karim signed through Messrs. Nampota & Company in which it was agreed that the two firms cannot take instructions against Karim in the course of representing one of his companies in a court case that has yet to be concluded.
“We are informed that at the time of issuing the demand letter, Messrs. Ritz Attorneys-at-Law were not aware that the draft retainership agreement that had been signed by Messrs Nampota & Company as the latter neither furnished them with a copy nor informed them of the signing,” reads the statement.
According to the statement, YAS has categorically stated that they “have not withdrawn and will not withdraw” the claim for what rightfully belongs to the people of Malawi and what “we believe was misappropriated through the dubious payments to Abdul Karim Batawalala.”
Also, YAS says apart from a letter from the Auditor General dated August 2012 purporting to confirm the sums owing to Abdul Karim, the organization has not been availed with a copy of the report of the purported subsequent verification audit.
“YAS does not consider the purported subsequent verification audit to be genuine, let alone that it vitiates the thorough investigative audit report of 2006, replete with all the supporting documentary evidence,” it says.
The statement has assured the general public that it will not relent on the matter and that it has hired new lawyers for the matter.
“In the light of the foregoing, YAS has already retained alternative legal representation in the name of Kawelo Lawyers with a view to seeking further advice and vigorously proceeding with the claims.
“YAS would therefore like to assure the general public, the true and sole beneficiaries of these claims, that the demand against Mr. Abdul Karim Batatawala stands and will be seen to its logical conclusion without relenting,” concludes the statement.
YAS had argued that Karim knowingly received the money from the Malawi Government through MPS under Procurement and Distribution of Police Uniforms in the 2001/2002 and 2004/2005 fiscal years.
It claimed the money was obtained through invoicing for goods never supplied to MPS, excess charges, overpayments and returned goods whose invoices were not reversed.
YAS is also pursuing a matter in which it asked the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to repay K145 million deposited in its Standard Bank account by Pioneer Investments Limited.
DPP has committed to repay Pioneer Investments, but YAS is arguing that the money be paid back to government, not Pioneer Investments.
Pioneer Investments had a questionable food rations contract with MPS, whose payment coincided with their depositing K145 million in the DPP account, whose sole signatory is President Peter Mutharika; hence the suspicion that the said money was proceeds of corruption.
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