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Officials keep minister in in dark on procurement

Michael Usi

Lazarus Chakwera

By Deogratias Mmana:

Officials at the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Wildlife have kept their minister, Michael Usi, in the dark over the procurement process for the construction of the Orton Chirwa Mausoleum project.

And the project which President Lazarus Chakwera sanctioned, might be thrown into disarray as officials have still not yet responded to the minister’s demand for an explanation as to why they bypassed him in the procurement deals.

Usi demanded an explanation on the procurement processes that led to the choice of contractors, Hema Construction Limited and Central Construction Group Limited Joint Venture to construct the mausoleum at the bid price of K1.4 billion.

He also wants to know why the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA) withdrew its No Objection to award the contract.

Our sources in the ministry also told us that the minister wanted to understand the breakdown of K1.4 billion cost for the project.

We understand that despite the minister’s request for details, no official has come up with an explanation to the minister on the project procurement processes.

The project has since then been in suspense after issuing an intention on March 2, 2022, to award the contract number IPDC/MTCW/DMM/COCM/ CW/2021/002.

After issuing the notice, Chakwera on March 3, 2022, announced that his government would construct the mausoleum as one way of recognising sacrifices made by freedom fighters.

“One step towards correcting this error is our plan to construct a mausoleum for Hon. Orton Ching’oli Chirwa and an airport that bears his name, for he is every bit as much national treasure as all the other six leaders we honour for their sacrifice. “We do so in order to inspire a new generation of patriots to make similar sacrifices today so that their courage, integrity, honesty and diligence become the seed for producing the harvest of tomorrow’s new Malawi,” Chakwera said during a memorial service at Maganga ground in Nkhata Bay on Martyrs Day.

And on March 10, 2022, the PPDA wrote the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Wildlife withdrawing its No Objection to award the contract.

The letter with reference number PPDA/03/17 and signed by Dr. Edington Chilapondwa, Director General of PPDA has the heading: “Withdrawal of a No Objection to award a contract for the construction of Orton Chirwa mausoleum in Nkhata Bay.”

Reads the letter: “Reference is made to your letter number MTCW/DMM/COCM/2021/002 dated 8th February 2022 and our response letter dated 24th February 2022 on the subject matter.

“Kindly be advised that the Authority hereby withdraws the No Objection to allow finalization of all required internal clearances which were inadvertently omitted,” the letter reads.

When asked for a comment, Usi told Malawi News that he had demanded an explanation from officials from his ministry on the procurement processes and why the No Objection was withdrawn.

He said: “Indeed I have asked questions to understand. The President and also my ethical and legal obligations demand that I understand what my ministry is undertaking.”

Usi confirmed that the project is now in suspense as the officials have not yet come forth with an explanation.

When asked to explain the withdrawal of the No Objection, PPDA’s Chilapondwa asked for a questionnaire and promised to respond, before referring us to the organisation’s Director of Corporate Affairs who was not available.

The Authority’s spokesperson Grace Thipa, who said was on leave, asked for more time up to Monday next week when she would be in office.

Church and Society of the CCAP Blantyre synod Executive Director Master Jumbe said the conduct of both the Ministry officials to keep the minister in the dark and the PPDA’s withdrawal of the No Objection and lack of detailed explanation for the withdrawal raise questions and suspicion in terms of good governance.

“The withdrawal [of No Objection] by the PPDA raises more questions than answers especially that there has been no elaborate explanation for that,” he said.

Jumbe faulted PPDA for rushing to grant a No Objection before establishing that all processes were concluded.

He also faulted officials from the Ministry of Tourism.

“We have said now and then that impunity in most government institutions has reached unprecedented levels. The conduct by the Ministry of Tourism officials is just the proof of that. This is very unfortunate indeed,” Jumbe said.

The mausoleum project however stirred an uproar from the public, with most people pointing out that the K1.4 billion set aside for the project was too much.

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