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Court rules against ACB in Mera contract

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A court in Lilongwe on Friday rejected an application by the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) to extend its restriction order to further carry out investigations at the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) following controversies surrounding the K6.8 billion office complex contract.

Principal Resident Magistrate Patrick Chirwa refused to extend the period for ACB to continue carrying out investigations at Mera arguing the anti corruption body did not give convincing grounds for the extension after it already had 90 days of investigations.

“The court must be satisfied that there are good grounds for extension. The applicant has not furnished the court with enough cause for extension. They did not give reasons why they did not complete the investigations. Court dismisses the application,” said Chirwa in his ruling.

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ACB took a restriction order on April 26 this year to investigate allegations that Mera Chief Executive Officer Raphael Kamoto unilaterally awarded a K6.8 billion contract to Terrastone Construction Company to build the regulator’s office complex allegedly because he was promised US$400 000.

The ACB also received a complaint from Segocoa Anhui Construction Company which argued it came out on position one but the contract was given to Terrastone.

Mera stopped the construction work because of the restriction order which expired on July 26 2016 and on August 2, 2016 the ACB applied to the court for an extension of the order which was rejected yesterday.

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In reaction to the ruling, ACB Director General Lucas Kondowe said yesterday: “I cannot give my conclusion on this matter. I will need to consult legal minds.”

But asked for legal opinion on the matter, ACB Deputy Director General Reyneck Matemba said: “I cannot comment on this case because my office of the Deputy Director General of the ACB has never handled this case.

I am simply watching the events as they unfold.”

Terrastone Construction Company lawyer Titus Mvalo welcomed the ruling and said construction of the project will now resume.

In an earlier interview before the ruling, Kondowe justified the investigations at Mera saying the first Internal Procurement Committee (IPC) at Mera chose S.R Nicholas with no objection from the Office of the Director of Public Procurement.

But he said work delayed and the “No objection” expired and Mera Chief Executive Officer Raphael Kamoto disbanded the IPC and created a new Contract Evaluation Committee.

The new IPC chose Terrastone.

Kondowe also said Mera tried to stop SR. Nicholas from participating in the fresh bid because of ACB’s probe in the Mzuzu Reserve Bank of Malawi probe but the anti corruption body advised Mera that it could not stop the company from participating because the investigations were not concluded.

Kamoto yesterday refused to comment on the matter.

But in an earlier interview in the week Kamoto responded to the issues raised by Kondowe about changing the IPC.

Said Kamoto: “In 2014 tenders were made and evaluated but finally the Board stopped the whole process. This was done before I went to Mera (in Sept 2015). That time SR Nicolas did well. The old IPC had been there for over three years so yes I changed them.”

He added: “SR Nicolas were part of the four companies that bid this year… Nobody stopped them. Don’t forget ACB has decided to put this into neutral gear and they are doing this by going to old issues which were closed. They still want to find an excuse.”

ACB and Mera have been battling over the project and Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale was dragged into the battle where Kamoto reported that the ACB boss was harassing and intimidating him over the project.

He also sought Kaphale’s opinion on the restriction order extension. Kaphale wrote Kondowe advising him to consider the implications of further extending the order.

Kondowe responded to Kaphale saying ACB was acting within the law and that it never issued threats to Kamoto.

In a related development, Kondowe strongly rejected the tone and insinuation

of our headline on the same issue in last week’s edition of this newspaper entitled ACB BOSS IN MERA’S CONTRACT SCANDAL.

Kondowe protested the headline saying he is merely doing his job to investigate the contract at Mera after he got two complaints from the public and he is not involved in any scandal as our headline insinuated.

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