Hearing of a case involving former minister of Energy Newton Kambala, Alliance for Democracy president Enock Chihana and President Lazarus Chakwera’s former adviser on strategy Chris Chaima-Banda starts today at the Lilongwe Chief Resident Magistrate Court.
The three accused, who were arrested on August 9 2021 and have been on bail since August 11, are answering to the offence of conspiracy to influence a public officer to abuse her office, in line with Section 25B (2) as read with Section 35 of the Corrupt Practices Act (CPA), among other offences.
Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) agents arrested the trio after conclusion of an investigation into the contracts award process at National Oil Company of Malawi (Nocma).
High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal Registrar Gladys Gondwe confirmed that the case would resume today.
“The matter is scheduled for hearing on 27th September [today] at 9am,” she said.
Kambala faces three counts of conspiracy to influence a public officer to abuse their office contrary to Section 25(B)2 of CPA, misuse of public office contrary to Section 25(B)1 of CPA and alternative count of attempting to influence a public officer.
Chihana faces two counts of conspiracy to influence a public officer, abuse of office and attempting to influence a public officer while Chaima-Banda faces two counts of conspiracy to influence a public officer to abuse office and attempting to influence a public officer.
The three accused pleaded not guilty to the five counts.
In an August 10 statement signed by ACB Principal Public Relations Officer Egrita Ndala, the graft-busting body said Kambala allegedly attempted to influence State-owned Nocma to award contracts for 2020-21 fuel supply to Orxy, Finergy and Trifugira Fuel companies.
And Chihana and Chaima- Banda allegedly aided and abetted the minister when he attempted to influence the award of the contract to supply 40,000 metric tonnes (mt) of fuel to Finergy.
The bureau said it received two complaints on the fuel import deals.
It said in the first complaint, the allegation was that there was corruption in the way Nocma conducted the process to award contracts to supply fuel while the second complaint related to alleged interference and meddling into Nocma’s contracts to supply fuel for 2020-21.
“The Anti-Corruption Bureau instituted investigations and restricted the contract. On 6th August, 2021, the bureau lifted the restriction as the investigation in the first complaint did not establish any offence,” the statement reads.
On September 17 2020, Nocma Deputy Chief Executive Officer Hellen Buluma complained to ACB on alleged political interference and attempts to influence the fuel importer’s fuel supply procurement process, implicating Kambala, Chihana and Chaima-Banda
According to Buluma’s letter that was addressed to the former ACB chief Reyneck Matemba, Nocma advertised for a fuel supply tender for 314,820mt which saw the three being involved.
“… On 26th and 27th September 2020, Kambala told me that he had shared my number with one who would call and link me to the suppliers, Mr. Enock Chihana, to which I resisted for a couple of days,’’… reads Buluma’s letter to ACB.
The letter alleged that Kambala directly instructed Buluma to only receive instructions from him on the specific suppliers and volume allocated to each and allegedly gave her names of four suppliers which included Oray, Finergy, Trafigura and later Sahara Energy.
However, during the same month, Kambala directed cancellation of tenders for the supply of fuel for 2020-21 of 314,820mt to Nocma until a new executive management was instituted
Kambala is the second serving Cabinet minister to be arrested for corruption-related allegations after Yusuf Mwawa during the first term of former president Bingu wa Mutharika’s rule.
Chaima Banda is the second Chakwera aide to be arrested after special adviser on special duties Pastor Martin Thom, who was picked in connection with attempted “smuggling” of a Loan Authorisation Bill to Parliament.