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ACB halts K1.2bn agro-deal

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By Mandy Potani 

The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has thwarted plans by Ministry of Agriculture and Water Development to award a K1.2 billion contract to Spatial Dimension (PTY) Limited of South Africa under Agricultural Commercialisation (Agcom) Project, on suspicion of corruption.

According to a restriction notice which we have seen and has been signed by ACB Director General Reyneck Matemba, the bureau has instituted investigations in the matter in line with the Corrupt Practices Act.

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While Matemba yesterday in a telephone interview acknowledged issuing the restriction notice, Agcom Communication Specialist Mark Ndipita asked us to check with him tomorrow
[Monday].

Matemba said the action follows reports of suspected corruption in the award of the contract, adding it is one of the preventive measures that the bureau undertakes after
receiving information on suspected corrupt offences.

He said it is alleged that the awardee in question
Spatial Dimension does not have the necessary expertise in Land Information Management and that qualifying companies were dropped.

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“Take notice that you shall not without my written consent proceed to award or undertake any activity for the award of contract to Spatial Dimension [PTY] Limited South Africa or to any joint venture thereof, for the design, develop and
operationalise, or for the design, supply, installation and commissioning of the Land Information Management System under the Agricultural Commercialisation Project at a sum of USD1,575,000 or any sum at all,” reads Matemba’s notice to principal secretary in the
ministry.

Boss of the graft-busting body then complained that most of public resources are going down the drain in Malawi through illegal procurement procedures in government departments and
institutions among others.

Matemba said misprocurement is a cancer
that continues to cost the country, saying it is an
area where public officers oftentimes compromise their authority, thereby calling on stakeholders to hold hands to curb the vice.

“Politicians go through procurement to siphon
money from public coffers for party activities, this is not just in government ministries but also statutory corporations,” he explained.

Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) wrote
ACB to investigate Agcom on the matter on September 28, after receiving information from one of the whistleblowers in its ongoing whistle-blowing initiative.

But in a response to a Times’ inquiry on HRDC’s
report recently, Ndipita said on behalf of Agcom the allegations are false, claiming the procurement process was transparent at every stage and that it followed World Bank procedures, who are financiers of the project.

“In this process, strict documentation is done at
every procurement stage and the project has documents on this procurement which are available for anyone to verify at any point in time. There is also a grievance reporting procedure which was given to all bidders in the bidding
document to ensure that all complaints are resolved before contract award,” says part of Ndipita’s response.

Launched in 2018, Agcom is being implemented with financial loan from World Bank through an independent Project Implementation Unit, with an aim of increasing commercialisation of agriculture value-chain products selected under the project.

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