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State house, Ibrahim Matola at ‘war’ over Escom

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Former Minister of Energy and Mining Ibrahim Matola has come out guns blazing challenging President Peter Mutharika that unless he stops his party and government officials from meddling with Escom’s operations, the electricity supplier will remain an underperforming entity.

But State House has lashed back at the former minister in the Joyce Banda administration, telling him that if his claims are an admission of what used to happen at Escom during his time, then he should play good citizen and report to the right authority for an investigation.

Matola claimed DPP politicians are being handed Escom contracts without merit and they end up supplying materials that are of poor quality.

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“I have been Minister of Energy before. I know what happens. Politicians use the name of the President or State House to demand contracts from Escom. Out of fear, management would manipulate tender documents to enable such politicians get the contracts,” said Matola.

He added: “What is happening at Escom now is that there is State House war. Politicians and others are scrambling for contracts in the name of the President or State House. The President should stop that war if Escom is to be efficient in its work. Such people supply wrong materials or of poor quality. Blackouts cannot end with that kind of life at Escom.”

The former minster justified his case by citing one recent procurement tender for the supply and delivery of prepaid meters and meter boxes with a contract value of K11 billion.

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According to him the tender was restricted, had no qualification criteria, had no bid security and did not indicate conditions of financial capacity requirement and previous experience and performance record.

The date of the opening of the tender was November 1 2016 and the first lot is to supply 190 000 pieces while 115 000 in the second lot.

Matola also said there was another tender that was open at first but was later made restricted. This was a K3.7 billion tender for the procurement of LED lamps.

He alleged that these moves are made to appease politicians such that Escom is forced to manipulate some tender documents to suit the politicians who have no capacity to handle such contracts.

There was no immediate comment from Escom over Matola’s allegations.

Escom Board Chairperson Jean Mathanga did not respond to our questionnaire which sought an explanation on the tenders in question.

However, Presidential Press Secretary Mgeme Kalilani hit back at Matola advising him to report such cases to the Anti- Corruption Bureau.

“As regard to Mr. Ibrahim Matola’s allegations, well since he was the line minister for Escom during the People’s Party (PP) administration, maybe he is talking about what used to happen when he was in charge there.

“If his claims are an admission of what used to happen at Escom when he was Minister of Energy, let him be a good citizen and report the incidents to the ACB and help them with investigations rather than just talking about the allegations casually in the media,” said Kalilani.

He said Mutharika has always told statutory corporations to work independently without being influenced by politicians.

“President Mutharika is calling upon Escom and all statutory corporations to be professional when awarding contracts. The President has repeatedly said that anybody claiming to be sent by him or the State House to ask for or do business anywhere is lying. It’s fraudulent and they should be arrested. No one should use the President’s name to intimidate officials at Escom,” said Kalilani, adding: “Should anyone do that, Escom management should not hesitate to immediately report such individuals to the ACB and Escom’s line ministry. You may wish to know that some fraudsters using the President’s name to extort innocent individuals have already been arrested in the past,” he said.

Deputy Director of Public Procurement Edward Jeke said he was aware of the tenders in question but was skeptical about the veracity of Matola’s claims.

“While I am not particularly obliged to know the source of your information, my suspicion is that the source might not have led you to the correct source of the details you are asking. The information is found in the tender’s bidding document that the procuring entity prepares and issues to the prospective bidders.

“Unless one lays hands on these documents, it will be too difficult to verify the claims you have raised. Kindly ask Escom for them and I am very sure you will get most of the information. However, I cannot be surprised if some of the information is not there such as bid security as they are optional in a restricted tender,” he said.

As power cuts take their toll on the nation, Escom is coming under increasing fire for failing to manage the situation and the government has been particularly criticised for failing to rise above the challenge and stop the politicisation of operations at Escom.

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