The Public Accounts Committee (Pac) of Parliament on Friday engaged Secretary to the President and Cabinet Zangazanga Chikhosi, demanding to know the legal mandate of the Government Contracting Unit (GCU) in vetting procurement contracts for government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).
Pac Chairperson Shadreck Namalomba told The Daily Times Sunday that committee members engaged Chikhosi in Salima District, where they wanted to know the law that GCU is using to vet contracts.
GCU, which is in the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC), was created with the mandate to review, consider, vet, negotiate and pass contractual proposals before they are concluded and agreed between the Malawi Government though MDAs and other parties and stakeholders.
GCU constitutes a multi-disciplinary team of experts in the fields of engineering, economics, law, architecture, procurement quantity surveying and finance.
According to Namalomba, President Lazarus Chakwera puts much emphasis on respect for the rule of law.
“In this regard, his administration must cite the legal provision it is using to conduct the vetting process,” he said.
Of late, GCU has been under fire from stakeholders for taking longer than necessary to vet government contracts, leading to frustration among players.
“The delays are leading to weak absorption of resources in the national budget. Of course, vetting is not a bad process but it has to be supported by the law,” Namalomba said.
He added that, during the meeting, OPC indicated that it would work towards fast-tracking the vetting process.
Chikhosi, in an interview Sunday, could not indicate the legal provision GCU has been using to conduct contract-vetting processes.
“I don’t know. Kawafunse [ask them],” Chikhosi said.
Speaking during the launch of six-lane Kenyatta Drive upgrading works in Lilongwe on Tuesday, Roads Authority Chairperson Joe Ching’ani also bemoaned the lengthy vetting process, describing it as a predator.
Ching’ani said, although vetting by itself was not bad, because it forms part of the equation in governance, it becomes a problem when it takes too long for it to be completed.
“But when vetting takes forever and keeps Roads Authority waiting, month in, and month out, it frustrates progress. Sadly, the public who do not know the reality on the ground is quick to blame the Chakwera/ [Saulos] Chilima administration as being slow.
“This is wrong, untrue and disrespectful to you and the vice president. It is the vetting MDAs who are at fault,” Ching’ani said.
The meeting between Pac and OPC also tackled the issue of irregular allowances obtained by some government officials as part of the controversial K6.2 billion Covid package.
It was revealed, during the meeting, that the OPC has managed to recover just over K8 million of the K30 million irregular allowances given.
According to Namalomba, Pac also wanted to establish how many officials had been disciplined over the matter. He said the committee was told that no government official has been disciplined so far.