Pac starts jet inquiry
Writes Treasury on presidential jet sale
The Public Accounts Committee (Pac) of Parliament has written the Treasury demanding documentation regarding the sale of Malawi’s presidential jet in May 2012.
Former president Joyce Banda sold the jet barely a month after being sworn in as Malawi’s president. Her administration sold the plane to Bohnox Enterprise of Virgin Islands at $15 million and claimed that the proceeds were used for buying maize and medicine for the country.
In a letter, dated August 6 2021, to Secretary to the Treasury, Pac Chairperson Shadreck Namalomba says his committee intends to conduct an inquiry into processes that were followed to dispose off the 14-passenger Dassault Falcon 900EX luxury presidential jet and how proceeds of the sale were handled.
The probe by Pac comes nearly a year after the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) admitted to having hit a blank wall on its investigations into the matter.
The presidential jet was bought by the late president Bingu wa Mutharika’s administration in 2009 at around $22 million, a move that angered Western development partners who claimed that the plane was partly bought using funds aimed at alleviating poverty.
Namalomba says, in the letter, that the probe is in line with the growing public interest in the matter “considering that this matter has been wrapped in secrecy which has led to a lot of claims of fraud in the whole process”.
According to the letter, Pac, which has the responsibility of overseeing public expenditure, resolved to look into the matter to find out what exactly happened when the jet was being disposed off.
“In this regard, the committee requests you, Sir, to provide all the necessary documentation relating to this matter, focusing on the processes that were followed when disposing off the presidential jet, the accountability of the proceeds of the sale as well as information on all the institutions that played a role in this whole process.
“The committee wishes to have this information by Friday 13th August 2021,” the letter reads.
Namalomba, in an interview yesterday, confirmed writing Secretary to the Treasury on the matter.
Asked if Treasury managed to furnish the committee with the necessary documents by the end of business on August 13, Namalomba said no.
“I called the Secretary to Treasury last week. He says it is the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) that handled the transactions and not his office.
“I asked him to put this in writing. Once his response is with us, we will proceed to write OPC,” Namalomba said.
Secretary to Treasury Chauncy Simwaka was not immediately available for comment yesterday.
In September last year, former ACB director general Reyneck Matemba told the Legal and Government Assurances Cluster of Parliament that the bureau hit a blank wall in following up on the matter.
Answering a question from a member of the cluster, Matemba said their preliminary investigations into the matter revealed that the plane was battered and that proceeds of the sale never came to Malawi.
“We received that complaint at the ACB and the time we did our preliminary investigations, we noted that, and again, I will be blunt, first the case was political.
“Our preliminary investigation showed that the plane might have been battered and that no money was paid into Treasury Account Number one. But I will be honest on this one, I think as a bureau, we had challenges in pursuing this case because most, if not over 90 percent, of activities to do with this case happened outside of Malawi.
“You might have seen in our report that if there is one challenge of investigation that we meet it is to do with foreign investigations. They are very expensive. And with the levels of funds that we are receiving, if we have to do one foreign or external investigation, it means the whole of our investigation budget goes,” Matemba said.
According to Matemba, the ACB does not have the mandate to investigate across the border even in Chipata, Zambia.
“We have to rely on foreign law enforcement authorities to do the investigation on our part and give us the evidence.
“And for us to be able to get that evidence, we have a law which we call the Mutual Legal Assistance Criminal Matters Act and we, as ACB, cannot go and get that evidence,” Matemba said.
He added that they use the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the office of the Attorney General to submit a request under Mutual Legal Assistance and that, after doing that, they would have to wait for the other country to assist.
“If the other country is not cooperating, that’s the end of the matter. That’s one challenge in this case. We are not allowed to go there, get the evidence and bring it here. It will not be admissible in court,” Matemba said.