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Queries over house deals

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The Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has written the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) asking it to investigate reports that the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development imposed on Thyolo District Council contractors to construct houses for chiefs in the district at K290 million.

The letter dated September 2, signed by HRDC Chairperson Gift Trapence, asks the bureau to investigate the claims and update the nation on the matter.

“We have received information that the Ministry of Local Government [and Rural Development] imposed contractors on Thyolo District Council and directed them to generate minutes as if a procurement meeting took place,” reads the latter in part.

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It queries how contracts to construct Traditional Authority (T/A) Maganiza’s house by Ulumba Building Contractors at K30 million, T/A Nanseta’s house by Bonongwe Building Contractors at K30 million, T/A Boyo’s house by Bonongwe Building Contractors at K30 million, T/A Changata’s house by Bonongwe Building Contractors at K30 million and T/A Khwethemule’s house by Fidelis Building Contractors at K30 million were awarded.

The letter also queries how contracts to construct Senior Chief Kapichi’s house by Ulumba Building Contractors at K35 million, Senior Chief Nchiramwera’s house by Ulumba Building Contractors at K35 million, Senior Chief Mphuka’s house by Fidelis Building Contractors at K34,901,756.10 and Senior Chief Thomas’s house by Fidelis Building Contractors at K34,901,756.10 were awarded.

For the Senior Chiefs’ housing projects, about K140 million was reportedly spent which brings the total that is being queried to K290 million if the K150 million for the T/ As’ houses is brought into the picture.

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The letter follows another one which HRDC wrote ACB on August 27 reporting allegations of suspected fraud and breach of procurement laws by the ministry in the award of contracts for the construction of houses for Senior Chiefs in Salima district.

The letter alleged that the four contracts whose total cost was K140 million were awarded without following open tender processes although the amount was above the public procurement threshold for Salima District Council.

HRDC claimed it had information that construction of the chiefs’ houses was used as a campaign tool by former governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the run-up to the fresh presidential election.

But Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development spokesperson Muhlabase Mughogho said the project was being implemented as part of the Descent and Affordable Housing Subsidy Programme and that the contractors were being appointed at council level.

After DPP was booted out of power by the Tonse Alliance on June 23, HRDC instituted a whistle-blowing initiative through which Malawians are able to supply to the rights body information on suspected cases of abuse of office, corruption and theft, among others.

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