The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has been investigating the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MCB) and Malawi College of Distance Education (MCDE) over allegations of the abuse of government money amounting to K51 million in the implementation of an education programme which airs on the public broadcaster.
MBC has been broadcasting Tikwere, an education programme of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.
The programme is produced and managed by MCDE.
But transactions between MBC and MCDE in relation to the programme have raised eyebrows within the MCDE establishment.
This is on account of suspected unsanctioned-for payments, breach of contractual payment procedures, alleged over payments and payments for services not delivered.
Details of the said suspicious dealings are contained in a report of an internal investigation which MCDE conducted early this year on the matter and in minutes of a meeting which officials at the institution held to deliberate on the concerns over the alleged irregularities in the implementation of the programme.
According to the report dated February 17, 2015, the suspicions were sparked by a discovery of an advertising company that had been pocketing government money through “secretly signed contracts” under the project which ran between September 2013 and July 2014.
Apparently, it is suspected that some officials from MBC and MCDE colluded to use this company as conduit of the project money for their personal benefit.
The report says the company, Overseas Advertising, which it says was hired secretly, was being paid for production of adverts and promos and monitoring the airing of Tikwere programme on MBC.
Yet, these services, according to the report, were being already provided internally by MCDE members of staff. In effect, there were no legitimate grounds for its hiring.
An explanation was also sought on what other sections within MCDE felt was a deliberate amendment of payment terms to MBC to allow for quick upfront payments.
This, the report indicates, was a violation of procurement procedures and terms as agreed in the original contracts.
In another case, claims the report, during the 2013 Christmas holiday, there was a hastened payment of up to K7.7 million “without supporting procurement documents”.
Further concerns over the deal are also given in minutes of meeting held at MCDE on February 6, 2015.
According to the minutes, members of staff observed that adverts for the programme which had been produced for free of charge appeared in the MBC/MCDE contracts “as paid for services to a company which produces none”.
“Members observed that a payment of K51,182,408.02 was made to MBC for a contract that was worth K31,879,592.57.
“And members wanted to know why money was paid in advance for programmes not yet aired when [internal] proposals for monitoring of Tikwere programmes with a budget of K300,000 were rejected because theinstitution claimed to have no money,” reads the minutes.
When contacted for comment, a witness signatory to the advertisingcontract on the part of MCDE, Patricia Luwambano, who is also named asthe head of Tikwere programme, said she was not in position to givethe details.
“ACB took up the matter and they are better placed to have details ofthe findings of their
“As a matter of fact, we already have another contract with MBC and it is running at the moment so that could be a matter about an old contract. ACB should have the details,” she said.
ACB’s Senior Public Relations Officer, Egritta Ndala, confirmed the investigation of the deal by the graft-fighting body.
“The Anti-Corruption Bureau has been conducting investigation at the Malawi College of Distance Education. The Bureau cannot discuss the findings of the investigation as doing so may prejudice its operations,” Ndala said.
Tikwere Programme was initially a project by the Education Development Centre, an NGO from the United States.
It was being funded by the United States for International Development (Usaid).
The project was completed in 2012 upon which the Ministry of Education took it over and has been running it through MCDE.
Under the project, MCDE was mandated to see the airing of 696 programmes every year on MBC’s two radio stations. The programmes are for pupils in Standard One to Four.
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