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Mera boss, two others nabbed

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James Kadadzera

Police Monday arrested three officials at Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) namely Chief Executive Officer Collins Magalasi, Bright Mbewe from the Procurement Office and the regulator’s spokesperson Patrick Maulidi.

National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera confirmed the arrest but refused to divulge more information for “fear of jeopardising investigations currently underway”.

However, according to a police charge sheet that we have seen, Mbewe, 45, has been charged with fraud, among others, while the offences of the two others are yet to be known.

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The particulars of his offence indicate that Mbewe “in April 2018 at Mera by deceit or other fraudulent means took money amounting to K704 million in the name of purchasing an Iveco Mobile Laboratory Fuel Van for Mera and paying for its insurance for the product which was not delivered to Mera”.

On July 12, the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) reported to the Anti-corruption Bureau (ACB) a suspected fraud case in a procurement agreement of a new van worth K704 million between Mera and City Motors Limited in 2018.

HRDC chairperson Gift Trapence then questioned the one-year period it took for the supplier to deliver the van despite receiving 80 percent of the contract fee and further alleged that the van did not come with equipment as agreed in the contract.

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Trapence has since commended the police for acting swiftly on the report.

“We want institutions that are progressive; what we want is justice in this country where resources have been abused. These cases were reported and we are happy that authorities have moved in to investigate what we reported. It is our hope that the truth will eventually be known,” Trapence said.

Recently, HRDC also asked ACB to investigate a suspected case of fraud in the procurement of electronic fuel level sensors for trucks and depot storage tanks.

In a letter dated July 17, 2020, addressed to ACB Director-General, Reyneck Matemba, HRDC alleged that it had received information of suspected corruption where Mera deliberately bypassed procurement procedures to award the contract to Mars International/Mike Appeal JV who were not the lowest evaluated bidder to supply 1,447 and 135 electronic sensors for fuel tankers and depot fuel storage tanks, respectively, at K3,254,492,77.62.

In the letter, HRDC expressed surprise on why Mera proceeded to award the contract to Mars International in 2018 which was increased by K800 million despite objections from the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDAA) that the firm was not the lowest evaluated bidder and lacked proof of a proven record in similar work.

“Our preliminary investigations indicate that Mars International has no proven track record of involvement in similar service. We wonder why Mera had to lie to PPDAA,” read part of the letter signed by HRDC Chairperson Gift Trapence

The letter further alleged that out of the targeted 1,447 trucks, Mars International only installed sensors on less than 20 trucks.

HRDC has accused Mera of micromanaging the fuel industry and questioned the regulator’s interest in financing the installing of electronic sensors on private trucks and private fuel depots.

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