Two companies owned by businessman Abdul Karim Batatawala have written the office of the Attorney General (AG) asking to settle out of court a matter in which the firms are demanding K53 billion from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services.
But AG Chikosa Silungwe, in an interview with The Daily Times Monday, said he would defend the case, rejecting the
out of court settlement option.
The two firms—Reliance Trading Company and Africa Commercial Agency—dragged the Immigration Department to court, demanding over K53 billion payments for items they claim to have supplied to the government in 2009, 2010 and 2012.
In letters to the AG dated June 7 2021, through Nampota and Company, the two firms indicate that they want to settle the matter out of court to save taxpayers’ money while ending a protracted standoff that benefits no one.
“We wish to advise that our client has instructed us to approach you, on a without-prejudice-basis, with a view to exploring possibilities of discussing this matter out of court amicably,” the letters read.
The communication says the matter was already in the process of an out of court negotiated settlement to avoid costs before it proceeds to trial.
“It is our client’s view that if we proceed with the negotiated amicable out-of-court discussions, we will achieve a speedy and less costly result as opposed to the manner in which we are proceeding now. Please advise us whether our client’s proposal is acceptable to you and indicate to us when you are available for such negotiations,” the letter reads.
In the letter, one of Nampota and Company’s lawyers, Alexius Nampota, indicates that settling the matter out-of-court would lead to a speedy conclusion and “avoid costs before it proceeds to trial”.
“It is our clients’ view that if we proceed with the negotiated amicable out of court discussions, we will achieve a speedy and less costly result as opposed to the manner in which we are proceeding now,” Nampota says in the letter.
In a separate interview with The Daily Times, Silungwe confirmed receiving the letter but said the government would not settle the matter out of court.
“We are not settling the matter out of court. We are defending the claim in court to the end,” he said.
Former AG Kalekeni Kaphale last year indicated that the government was willing to negotiate with the two suppliers.
The Anti-Corruption Bureau, Public Procurement and Disposal Assets Authority (PPDA) and Fiscal Police have in the past failed to establish any wrongdoing in the award of the uniforms’ contracts at the Immigration Department, indicating that the firms followed all bidding processes that the department had put in place.
However, in his letter to ACB last month, asking it to investigate the Immigration Department’s uniforms’ deal, Silungwe accused people at ACB, Fiscal Police and PPDA of being compromised.