As African Commercial Agency and Reliance Trading Company owned by Abdul Karim Batawarara are demanding K53 billion from government, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has summoned the controversial Asian businessman and Attorney General and some officials to explain the legitimacy of agreement signed in March 2012.
The two suppliers signed a K9 billion contract with the Immigration Department to supply uniforms but failed to honour the deal only to start delivery five years later and are now demanding K53 billion, which is more than five times the agreed amount.
In a letter dated January 18 2019 seen by Nyasa Times signed by chairperson of PAC, Alekeni Menyani, top government officials in Immigration, the Attorney General and Secretary to the Treasury as well as director of the two companies to appear before the committee on February 1 2019.
“You are ordered to come and appear before the Parliament Committee on Public Accounts at Parliament Building along the Presidential Drive on Friday February 1 2019 to give evidence on the legitimacy of the payment claim totalling K53.9 billion for the supply and delivery of Immigration uniforms and other accessories to the Immigration Department,” reads the letter in part.
The letter states that PAC is invoking its powers according to Section 9 of the National Assembly (Powers and Privilege Act) to summon the government officials and directors or secretaries of Africa Commercial Agency and Reliance Trading Company.
In a related development, the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has asked President Peter Mutharika to ask the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), Fiscal Police and the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA) to investigate Karim Batawarara and his two firms for possible corruption and fraud.
“Where there is reason to believe that crimes occurred; security agencies should arrest and prosecute suspects,” reads part of the statement.
The statement was signed by the group’s national chairperson Timothy Mtambo, his deputy Gift Trapence and regional chairpersons Happy Mhango (North), Madalitso Banda (East), Masauko Thawe (South) and Billy Mayaya (Centre).
HRDC also want PPDA to immediately disbar the two companies and any firms associated with Batawarara from participating in any public tender in Malawi.
The grouping also want government to suspend all current contracts that Africa Commercial Agency and Reliance Trading Company or any firms associated with Batawarara until the two companies are cleared.
“Should the Malawi Government not act on the above, HRDC will assume that the administration is in consort with the suppliers that want to reap from poor Malawians where they did not sow.
“Should that be the case, HRDC shall include this as one of the demands in the upcoming demonstrations in March 2019.”
The matter was first revealed by Nyasa Times and the leading daily, The Nation newspaper has followed up reporting that after signing the contract in 2012, nothing came through from the suppliers and the Immigration Department concluded that the companies’ silence on the order had invalidated the contract.
But on August 1 2017, the department got separate letters from the two companies both dated July 31 2017 with identical message that the goods the department had ordered would be in Malawi “within the next three weeks” and asked the authorities to facilitate duty free clearance from the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) for the consignments.
This shocked the department because as far as it was concerned the contracts were no longer valid in view of the five years that elapsed without receiving the goods.
The department then wrote the Attorney General (AG) on August 2 2017 seeking legal advice and the AG advised it to reject the goods based on the lapsed time, forcing the suppliers to resort to courts where government is now fighting the matter.