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Procurement mist surrounds the contract between government and Allied Freight Agencies to ship and forward property of about 80 diplomats the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is bringing back home after the massive recall from various missions.

Office of the Director of Public Procurement (ODPP) says while government in the past asked for strict tender for the same job, it was not the case for the current contract.

Deputy Director of Public Procurement, Edward Jeke, said on Thursday that he was not aware if the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation followed the same procedure.

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He was asked if the ministry followed procurement procedures in hiring Allied Freight Services to transport property of diplomats on recall from various missions.

“What I recall is that in the past they asked us for strict tender because it is not everybody who can do shipping. I do not know if they followed the same this time. I am not aware of this one,” said Jeke.

According to a memo from Secretary for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ref. No EA/1/3/01B dated July 15 2016 addressed to all heads of Malawi Missions abroad, government has contracted Allied Freight Agencies to do the shipping of goods and property for the recalled diplomats.

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“I have the honour to inform you that this Ministry has entered into contract with the Allied Freight Agencies in which the latter is to provide goods shipping and freight forwarding services for the Diplomats on recall to home service.

“I should in this regard, be most grateful if you could cooperate with the Agent in order to make this contract a success,” reads the letter signed by the PS Dalitso Kabambe.

One of the diplomats said what makes the contract strange is that Allied Freight Agencies is just an agent who is supposed to identify shipping company to do the actual job. The diplomat said in the past the procedure was that the Ministry would ask the missions to call for tenders to select a shipping company.

“But this time, the Ministry is doing it by itself. We are not sure if procurement procedures have been followed. We are also worried about the safety of our goods since we are not sure of the company the agent will find. It once happened with our colleagues in Egypt, their container dumped and they lost property as no payment was made to clear it,” the diplomat said adding that there are 80 diplomats on recall and the diplomat was one of them.

But the Ministry of Foreign Affairs says government has changed its policy on recalling diplomats and that it decided from 2014 to use the Ministry Headquarters to effect the recalls.

” In this regard, the Ministry followed the prescribed procedures for tendering. The first advert appeared in the Nation of 19th September 2014.

The Internal Procurement Committee considered the bids, and determined that Allied Freight was best suited for the job. After identifying Allied Freight, the Ministry wrote to the Office of the Director of Public Procurement for the necessary approvals and endorsements of both the contract and the agent. Once ODPP approved, the contract was awarded to Allied Freight,” said the Ministry’s acting spokesperson John Kabaghe in response to our questionnaire.

He claimed ever since the Ministry has continued to follow the prescribed procedures in awarding the contract to Allied Freight.

The latest advert covering the 2016/17 financial year was made in March 2016.

We could not get hold of the agency for their comment at how they got the contract.

Since President Peter Mutharika came to power in 2014 several diplomats have been recalled in a bid government said was aimed at cutting costs.

But a ministry official said the recall is aimed at downsizing and rationalising personnel both for diplomats and local staff in Malawi missions abroad.

Through the process, government wants to reduce the number of diplomats from the established positions of 234 to 152 and local staff from 217 to 184.

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