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Anti-Corruption Bureau pounces on 4 at Escom

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Reyneck Matemba

The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Thursday arrested former board chairperson of the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) Jean Mathanga and former Chief Executive Officer John Kandulu on allegations related to procurement.

On Wednesday the bureau also arrested Escom’s former Director of Procurement Fanuel Nkhono and Senior Procurement Officer Emilius Kandapo on similar allegations.

A statement from the graft-busting body states that the arrests follow a complaint which the bureau received on September 2, 2016 which alleged that the utility institution made procurements worth K4 billion without following proper procedures.

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“The ACB instituted investigations which established that there was indeed procurement at Escom which was done without following laid down procedures… The four are suspected of committing an offence of abuse of office contrary to Section 25B of the Corrupt Practices Act,” the statement reads.

In a separate interview, ACB Director-General Reyneck Matemba said billions of kwacha were wasted through misprocurement and contracts that were dubiously awarded to politically-connected individuals and companies.

Escom Public Relations Manager Innocent Chitosi said he was not aware of the issue.

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“We do not have information as of now. Probably the ACB may be in a better position to comment,” he said.

The ACB also instituted investigations at Escom which revealed traces of corruption in the controversial genset deal sealed in 2017.

It was reported that the bureau identified procurement flaws in the two-year $73.9 million generators leasing agreement between Aggreko Power Solution and Escom.

The Malawi government opted for the diesel power generators as an interim measure to improve power supply in the wake of reduced hydro-electric power generation.

But the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority faulted the evaluation process and ordered the cancellation of the contract.

Escom has been embroiled in several other scandals which include failure to decisively explain and act on how 4.2 million litres of fuel for the generators, worth about K3.7 billion, went missing.

The volume of 4.2 million litres is approximately 114 tankers of 35,000 litres capacity which observers argued could not be blamed on security guards who had initially been arrested in connection with the matter.

The observers argued that in a normally working institution where supply-chain systems are efficient, it would be easy to trace who had stolen the fuel and suspected it was ‘powerful’ people who had committed the crime.

Escom also reportedly procured materials worth billions of kwacha which it did not need.

The Consumers Association of Malawi once described the utility body as one of the most corrupt public institution which required some deep cleansing.

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