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Government paying Technobrain

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Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda

About a year after the government cancelled a $60 million passport booklets deal with Technobrain, arguing that it was expensive, the same government has paid the firm K3.3 billion to supply passport consumables.

Finance Minister Sosten Gwengwe disclosed this in Parliament on Monday when the august House discussed the Immigration Vote.

Gwengwe was asking the House to approve an upward adjustment of the Immigration Vote from K6,378,502,705 to K9,862,975,683.

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Immediately after Gwengwe put the matter to the floor, Chitipa South lawmaker Werani Chilenga asked the finance minister to shed light on whether the increase in the budget would help address the problem of shortage of passport booklets at the department.

Gwengwe said although there has been an increment in personal emoluments, there is also an increase of about K3.3 billion for the procurement of passport booklets which the department is using.

“The issue is real. I know that the department, utilising the guidance of the Attorney General [Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda], is engaging the current suppliers to make sure that they agree on the terms so that we ensure continuous supply of our passports.

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“Those negotiations are at an advanced stage and it is my hope that that can be closed. There are some payment terms that are on the table, without going too much into that discussion. But we hope that the sooner this is concluded the better,” Gwengwe said.

Chikwawa East lawmaker Rodrick Khumbanyiwa then asked Gwengwe to explain if the K3.3 billion would go to Technobrain, to which the finance minister agreed.

“The K3.3 billion, yes, [it] went to Technobrain and they supplied some booklets. These are booklets that are currently being used by the department.

“But the issue is bigger than the K3.3 billion. There are contractual issues the department is, with the guidance of the Attorney General, looking at so that, going forward, there is a steady and consistent supply of booklets,” Gwengwe said.

But in an interview Tuesday, Nyirenda said the Technobrain deal remains terminated.

According to Nyirenda, the K3.3 billion payout is part of the outstanding amount which is currently under dispute.

Nyirenda said there are disagreements on how much government owes Technobrain, with Capital Hill insisting that the firm also owes government some money.

He said the time Technobrain was entering into the agreement, it used some materials belonging to Capital Hill.

“If the agreement was in place, we would have paid over $60 million by now,” Nyirenda said.

Technobrain officials were not immediately available Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency Executive Director Willy Kambwandira has said what the government is doing by continuing to deal with Technobrain does not make sense.

He said it does not make sense from accountability, transparency to management perspectives.

“After all the noise about this company, it is unbelievable that two years after a contract was terminated, government continued to work with the same old company that was deemed expensive; a company the government claimed was hired in unquestionable manner.

“This sudden change of heart raises suspicions,” Kambwandira said.

In 2019, Technobrain and the Malawi Government entered into a $60 million (about K61 billion) contract, which Nyirenda terminated on the ground that it was too expensive.

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