Privatisation ex-chief faults Treasury in bus depots case
By Wezzie Gausi:
Public Private Partnership Commission former chief executive officer (CEO) Jimmy Lipunga, who is the second witness in the case related to the transfer of bus terminals to National Bus Company (NBC), has implicated the Treasury for not following procedures in transactions that led to the change of hands.
The bus company is owned by businessman Leston Mulli.
Lipunga told the Financial and Economic Crimes Court in Lilongwe that it was the Treasury, through the then minister of Finance, which made the decision to give the depots to the bus company in 2008.
According to Lipunga, the involvement of the commission in the process did not mean it was behind the decision to hand over the depots to the bus company.
“For the government to make its decision, it had to use an entity; in this case it was the commission that was used to write letters issuing the depots to NBC.
“We, as the commission, refused the transactions due to lack of legal visibility. We objected from the onset [and said] that the government should not enter into this agreement,” Lipunga said.
Representing the State, Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda said it was unfortunate that procedures were not followed when the depots were changing hands.
He said, under normal circumstances, the whole process was supposed to be made public.
Chakaka Nyirenda said there was also a need to call for bids, something that did not happen.
“Conducting feasibility study, studying risks, calling for bids, among other processes prescribed by the law, had to be done if such transactions were to be procedural.
“In line with laws of that time, neither the president not the minister had powers to make such arrangements but the Treasury forwent the processes and made the arrangements,” Chakaka Nyirenda said.
Defence Lawyer John Kalampa said he was ready for cross-examination.
“Today we heard from, and cross-examined, the second witness. We have heard what he has told the court and, moving forward, we are ready to face the remaining witness,” Kalampa said.
The State is remaining with one witness to testify in the case.
It will then close the matter.
Judge Violet Chipao has since adjourned the matter to May 10, when the State will parade the remaining witness.
On July 28 2022, High Court Judge Mandala Mambulasa ruled that Mulli and the bus company be dispossessed of five depots, namely Lilongwe, Wenela in Blantyre, Kasungu, Makata in Zomba and Mzimba.
He further ordered local councils to take ownership of them.