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K27 billion passport deal under ACB spotlight

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By Taonga Sabola:

Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has said it is following with keen interest proceedings in the K27 billion contract to a firm to upgrade the Passport Issuance System (PIS) and Introduction of the Electronic Passport.

ACB Director General, Reyneck Matemba, on Tuesday said his office has received a complaint regarding how the Malawi Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services awarded the deal.

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“We reviewed the complaint and noted that the substance or subject matter of the complaint is similar to the matter that was before the High Court, now before the Supreme Court of Appeal,” Matemba said.

The ACB boss, nevertheless, said the bureau was working on the complaint while monitoring and keenly following developments that are unfolding in the courts relating to the matter.

Matemba said, although ACB is an independent institution, it works hand-in-hand with all government ministries, departments and agencies.

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“…The ACB does not only comply with judgements or rulings made by our courts, we also fully abide by the directions or orders made by our courts; on any particular subject matter, including those matters which are of interest to us, just like the case of the e-passport procurement contract,” Matemba said.

He said, in an event that the bureau comes across any matter which was not dealt with by the courts, his body would pursue that in accordance with their mandate.

The Immigration Department, late last year, awarded the contract to Two Trees Investment amid protests from other bidders that eventually took the matter to court for judicial review, accusing the department of acting dubiously.

A full nine-member Supreme Court of Appeal panel is expected to hear the matter after Iris Group SA and Challenge International appealed, following lower court’s decision, to vacate an injunction that was granted to stop the awarding of the contract.

The High Court in Blantyre vacated the injunction Iris Group SA and Challenge International obtained to stop the department from awarding the K27 billion contract to Two Trees.

The court’s decision meant that the Immigration Department was free to award the contract to Two Trees.

Two Trees is a local company but it partnered Belgian firm, Zetes.

The Supreme Court of Malawi is expected to hear the matter when full trial begins following the appeal filed by Iris lawyers, one of the lawyers representing Iris and Challenge International, Clement Mwala, said.

Two Trees, Iris Group SA and Techno Brain Global FZE responded to an invitation by the Immigration Department to bid for the contract.

Iris and International Challenge argued that the Immigration Department flouted its own instructions and also the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Act that stipulates that companies that have been invited may not be allowed to partner.

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