Nocma fuel saga
Newton Kambala, Enock Chihana, Chris Chaima Banda arrested over fuel supply contracts
The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Monday arrested Energy Minister Newton Kambala, Alliance for Democracy president Enock Chihana and President Lazarus Chakwera’s Chief Strategy Adviser Chris Chaima Banda.
The three have been arrested over allegations of political interference in the awarding of 2021-22 fuel importation deals by the National Oil Company of Malawi (Nocma).
ACB spokesperson Egrita Ndala confirmed the development yesterday.
The arrests came after, in November last year, Nocma Deputy Chief Executive Officer Hellen Buluma reported to ACB that the three were meddling in the fuel tender process with intent to influence award of fuel supply contracts to specific suppliers.
In a statement Monday, Ndala said the ACB received a complaint alleging corruption in the way Nocma conducted the process to award contracts to supply fuel.
She said the bureau received another complaint alleging interference and meddling into Nocma’s contracts to supply fuel for the year 2020-21, resulting in the graft-busting body restricting the contract while conducting investigations into the issue.
According to Ndala, ACB, on August 6, lifted the restriction as investigations into the first complaint did not establish any offence.
“In the second complaint, the investigation established that Hon. Newton Kambala, Minister of Energy, attempted to influence Nocma to award contracts of 2020-2021 fuel supply for the advantage of Orxy, Finergy and Trifugira Fuel companies.
“Mr Enock Chihana, president of Alliance for Democracy, and Mr. Chris Chaima Banda, Presidential Adviser on Strategy, aided and abetted Hon. Newton Kambala when he attempted to influence the award of the contract to supply 40,000 metric tones (mt) of fuel to a company known as Finergy,” Ndala said.
ACB Director General Martha Chizuma told journalists in Lilongwe Monday that investigations into the matter confirmed political interference.
“There is a recommendation that there must be prosecution of those that are allegedly involved. The bureau is in the process of executing that recommendation,” she said.
Chizuma said they have advised Nocma to use ex-tank method of importation as there is an injunction against the use of DDU.
“Going through the procurement process that Nocma undertook, we could not detect any corrupt practices; maybe there are just two or three things that we have referred to the Solicitor General just to guide us on the legality of some of the actions that Nocma took,” she said.
State House Director of Communications Sean Kampondeni said yesterday that President Lazarus Chakwera was awaiting official communication from ACB before he could act on the matter.
According to Buluma’s letter that was addressed to the former ACB chief Reyneck Matemba, on September 17 2020 Nocma advertised for a fuel supply tender for 314,820mt which saw the three, Kambala, Chaima Banda and Enock Chihana 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 regarding 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 2020-2021 of 314,820mt to Nocma until a new executive management was instituted.