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Pressure mounts on government to probe NRWB CEO

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Michael Kaiyatsa

By Deogratias Mmana

Pressure is mounting on the government to probe Chief Executive Officer for Northern Region Water Board (NRWB) Titus Mtegha over alleged conflict of interest that he is embroiled in.

On January 22, 2022 we reported that Mtegha rented out his two lodges to China State Construction Engineering Company, a contractor hired by the water board to handle a $26.7m (K22bn) Karonga Water Supply Project.

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He rented out the two properties in a manner that breaches procurement laws.

Analysts have described government’s silence on the matter as suspicious and a sign of its laissez-faire approach to the fight against corruption and bad governance.

Executive Director for Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency (CSAT) Willie Kambwandira called on the Ministry of Water and Sanitation to carry out its own investigations and establish how the contractor was awarded the contract and the role Mtegha played.

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“This [silence] is suspicious and smells of corruption and conflict of interest and it must be investigated without delay to establish how NRWB awarded the contract to this contractor.

“It is our demand that the ACB [Anti-Corruption Bureau] investigate the procurement processes,” Kambwandira said.

“The investigations must also establish what role the NRWB CEO played in the procurement process,” he added.

Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) Executive Director Michael Kaiyatsa said the renting out of the two lodges by Mtegha to the contractor is suspicious and calls for further investigations.

“In this case, one can conclude that the Chief Executive Officer has taken advantage of his public position to give an improper advantage to himself by renting out his lodges to the contractor implementing the water supply project,” Kaiyatsa said.

He added: “This smacks of breach of trust, which is an aspect of corruption.”

Kaiyatsa said if the government is serious about the promotion of good governance, its relevant agencies must investigate the conflict of interest and the award of the contract.

“If the allegations of conflict of interest are proven true, the best he can do is to resign from his position and let others take over,” Kaiyatsa said.

Asked why the NRWB board is not taking any action on its CEO, its chairperson James Munthali sounded helpless. Instead, he invited other bodies to investigate the CEO.

“My understanding is that the issue is now in public domain following your front page article in the newspaper. I am sure that there should be competent organs that could also be taking interest in this matter if it is perceived that there was any wrong doing,” Munthali said.

Minister of Water and Sanitation Abida Mia said on Thursday that she will make an inquiry into the matter.

Before the creation of the new ministry, Secretary for Environment and Natural Resources Yanira Ntupanyama, where NRWB belonged, kept mum on the matter.

ACB said recently that it already received a complaint on the matter.

In an earlier interview, Mtegha said he declared interest in the project. But he did so after the commencement of procurement processes.

Malawi Institute of Procurement and Supply (Mips) faulted Mtegha for declaring his interest after the commencement of the procurement proceedings.

Mips said Mtegha would have faced disciplinary measures if he was a member of the institute.

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