..State House, MCP fundraising for 2025 elections
..Turkey fertiliser symbolic to validate the deal
No one can cancel the East Bridge dubious and illegal contract because President Lazarus Chakwera, the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), and senior State House advisers mooted the scheme as part of raising funds for the 2025 general elections, a tired senior public official has revealed.
The Investigator Magazine can reveal that Paul Mphwiyo, the fugitive cashgate mastermind, was roped in by an advisor to President Lazarus Chakwera to form the company, and East Bridge in Malawi has no connection, presence, or ties to Romania as alleged by Agriculture Minister Sam Kawale and his Information counterpart Moses Kunkuyu.
“As far as he is aware, Kawale knows how bad this deal is. Everyone knows how this scandal has disgraced the whole government. While it was easy to cancel the Namibian deal, someone guaranteed payment for the fertiliser in Turkey which will be used to justify this deal. This cannot be cancelled by anyone but the President himself. Every time someone speaks, he contradicts the other,” charged a person who has been part of the whole process.
A local newspaper confirmed on Thursday that East Bridge Directors Paul Mphwiyo (whose proxy is Gloria), Likhwa Mussa, and Tedd Moya were out of the country, allegedly to seek markets, contradicting what Kawale told Malawians through Zodiak that the company had markets in Europe, Americas, and other parts of the world.
MCP and Ministers interfere in the procurement of fertiliser
Senior officials in the Ministry of Agriculture said Kawale, just like his predecessor Lobin Lowe, is the main driver of fertiliser programmes that ordinarily are left to technical teams to advertise, shortlist, and award fertiliser contracts.
“Malawians are asking who found Mphwiyo and company and why did they not bid for the subsidy programme like any other company. It is unheard of for cabinet ministers to go out and look for fertiliser companies. That breeds corruption. In simple terms Kawale is part of East Bridge, he knows how they came about, and he knows he can’t be fired because his boss, in this case the President will protect him,” concluded an agriculture official who said most of the processing of the deals were now done by selected few in the Ministry.
For the first time government did not advertise the country’s biggest procurement item pegged at K140 billion and only invited a few and some new companies to bid for the Affordable Input Programme. Some companies with high quoted prices connected to MCP have been awarded contracts to supply.
“The Minister says East Bridge fertiliser is for SFFFRM, how was he negotiating for a statutory body that has its own management structure? His interference and negotiating on behalf of an independent government body does not make sense. The Ministry’s focus in relation to fertiliser is mainly AIP. Anything else Kawale is dragging us into mud,” complained another source who said paperwork is being created to back the East Bridge deal.
When asked by Zodiak’s Gabriel Kamlomo in June, the Minister insisted everything had followed procedures, a claim which fell off after it was revealed that all procurement approvals had not been obtained from relevant agencies. He still insists on proceeding.
“We are scared with his zeal to get this deal which in all sense has failed public procurement test. The Law Society writing to the Anti-Corruption Bureau officially to investigate this one will find a lot of things were not done properly. Everybody knows MCP is not likely going to win again, officers are running away, falling sick and they have had to bring Eunice Chipangula to join them as nobody wants to handle this East Bridge madness,” said an official.
East Bridge is just a Malawi company
The Investigator Magazine found out that there is nothing international about the company as the three Mphwiyo, Moya, and Mussa were meeting at different pubs in Lilongwe and openly discussed their impending “windfall” in relation to the deal.
Officials from State House were seen at one of the well-known pubs talking to the three “Directors” between April and May this year and their close associates claim people linked to President Chakwera, State House and MCP have been talking about the “windfall.”
“Mphwiyo was the one making all the calls and giving directions. He was the main guy and contact in the matter. The company address is Likhwa Mussa’s house which he had put out for sale to pay off client money after Law Society recommended, he be barred from practising law for misconduct. Moya is the one who signed off the contracts,” narrated one of the people who interacted with the three.
Kawale told Malawians, the local company was set up to do logistics, yet he knew that the team he was negotiating with and who had registered were all Malawians, using someone from outside as a cover to supply fertiliser without proper procedures.
“President Chakwera is mum about the whole thing because he is personally aware of the deal. He cannot pretend he is not in this case. The “Directors” have told all their friends nothing can stop this deal because the “big man” authorised it,” charged another source.
Campaign funds, as Kawale, Kunkuyu all refer to payment in kwacha
Finance Minister Sosten Gwengwe is reported to have had misgivings about US$250 million sovereign guarantees being issued prior to the October IMF meeting to discuss the potential resumption of the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) but he was overruled by President Chakwera himself.
During his interview with Zodiak and Daily Times after we revealed the deal, Kawale referred to paying “East Bridge in Malawi kwacha” in case there are natural disasters. He also told Zodiak that the Ministry of Trade and Ministry of Finance would be involved in the exports of the commodities given to East Bridge.
“Malawians should have spotted this anomaly that in one sentence he says his Ministry will mobilise farming of the crops to pay off East Bridge and in another he talks of export proceeds, licensing, and reconciliation, and yet he says East Bridge’s local agency will collect the crops in Malawi. Looking at that recorded interview, Kawale repeated payment in kwacha several times, that is the intention of the whole deal. The government will eventually pay East Bridge in cash,” our expert analyst report points out.
Our analysts say the government would not be concerned with export procedures if it had no interest in the company as its role would end after handing over the crops to East Bridge who will be responsible for obtaining necessary approvals and licenses.
On Thursday, 20 July 2023 in a radio interview monitored on Times Radio, Information Minister Moses Kunkuyu defending the deal repeated that “in case we don’t raise enough produce, we will pay in Malawi kwacha.”
The two Ministers’ reference to payment shows that the plan will eventually end up paying the company they set up in Kwacha, something they have planned to do before the elections in 2025.
“Kawale says the fertiliser will be paid for, two years after delivery. Two years after the first delivery is just before the 2025 elections. There is nothing at the Ministry of Agriculture budgeted or being prepared to grow the crops at the scale they agreed with Mphwiyo and company,” said an agriculture official.
The Investigator Magazine has come to the conclusion that President Chakwera, Kawale, and Mphwiyo planned the scheme as means of raising financing for the 2025 elections mirrored on the 2013 cashgate scandal in which billions of kwachas were transferred to private companies for use by then ruling People’s Party (PP) campaign.
East Bridge is Mphwiyo’s Cashgate 2.0
Paul Mphwiyo fooled President Joyce Banda that he was shot for fighting corruption while he was the architect of the cash gate system, in which he allocated funds as budget director to specific ministries and departments where funds would be cashed out without any provision of services.
Just like in 2013, Mphwiyo would recruit established news media outlets Editors, who played his narrative, praising him as an anti-corruption fighter when he was all along the mastermind and champion of the criminal activity which was revealed when he was charged with K2.3 billion case.
Chakwera and Kawale’s recklessness to strike a deal with now a fugitive on the run from his 2013 case and their insistence to proceed with the deal when it is apparent, they have been dealing with questionable characters, indicates how deeply rooted in corruption the MCP and its leaders are.
Our investigators point out similarities between the 2013 cashgate and the impending fleecing of public finances that has dominated government contracts under President Chakwera, saying creating and using private companies to get huge contracts were the same model Mphwiyo designed for the first cashgate.
“In this case, East Bridge gets sovereign guarantees. East Bridge is a local company. Knowing they already control established media which cannot critique them, they thought the matter will die and they will later claim the billions after supplying a few quantities of fertiliser. There was no intention to supply 150,000 tons of fertiliser. They would bring a few tons, Kawale and company will do it with fun fare and then claim all 150,000 tons are in and we are paying cash. This is a refined version of cashgate,” our reporters conclude.
A financial expert pointed out that even in the case that East Bridge was an international company, receiving payment in kwacha would not make sense as they do not have interests in Malawi, and they will still need foreign exchange to repatriate their earnings.
“No serious company would expect to be paid in kwacha when they know they can’t find a foreign exchange. The issue is the money is meant for Malawi and one can say without fear of contradiction is a fundraising scheme for the party. This is a proper cashgate scheme. Supply a few quantities, claim they are worth K250 billion, the jackpot is hit,” he agreed with our analyst’s report.
Few tons of fertiliser on the sea
The Daily Times report of Thursday 20 July 2023 alleged that the “Directors” were now in the Mozambican port city of Beira to look for markets. The truth is Tedd Moya the self-acclaimed “Director of IT” for East Bridge travelled from Nairobi to Beira to facilitate the arrival of some fertiliser which will be used to justify the deal.
“The East Bridge, on the strength of the contract and sovereign guarantee raised a letter of credit which they used to obtain fertiliser in Turkey. They claim is 50,000metric tons, but nobody will be allowed to verify the quantities as the officials will claim it’s enough to pay off East Bridge,” said a source.
Minister Kawale is adamant about the deal because he is aware of where the Letter of Credit originated.
Moya confirmed to his close associates that he was in Beira “to facilitate the arrival of the deal” and not to find markets, as Mozambique has no procurement agencies based in Beira.
“The Reserve Bank of Malawi either issued the letter of credit or transferred funds to NBS Bank. The central bank is involved. NBS bank processed some funds on behalf of the East Bridge. Between the two they know how East Bridge was able to get the fertiliser and that will be paid for by Malawians,” our source was emphatic on the process.
Reserve Bank of Malawi spokesperson and NBS Bank officials did not respond to our questions which texted and emailed to their official contacts.
But our sources said funds were paid into an account at NBS Bank in Lilongwe for one of the “Directors.”
The Investigator Magazine is currently tracking ships docking at Beira and their manifest and we will update accordingly.
East Bridge Directors party in Nairobi
Likhwa Mussa, continued the now-established pattern of lies when he told the Daily Times, he and his fellow Directors had been to Djibouti, Kenya, and Uganda to look for markets for the crops which are yet to be cultivated. He was only in Nairobi before travelling to Dubai earlier this week.
Mussa and Moya and an unnamed third person rented an Air BnB house in Nairobi city centre for close to two weeks where they partied and spent unlimited dollars cash in purchases in different shops in Nairobi shopping malls.
“They have been around spending dollars they changed in Malawi with Mphwiyo. Whatever they were doing here did not involve meetings or doing business,” said a close associate of the two, who gave a lot of details we have withheld for fear of being identified.
A simple internet search Uganda does not import maize which only produces 2700 tons annually, and neither does it import agricultural produce. Djibouti on the other hand imports food from Ethiopia, Sudan, and other neighbours, and none of East Bridge’s produce fits their national staple food.
“The problem of lying in a modern world is that they think they are dealing with a dull nation. The countries mentioned are not markets for most of the crops they agreed to pretend to need for payment. The deal was badly thought like cashgate, whatever they are saying cannot be factually proven,” said our source.
Our expert analysts pointed out that it was very strange for East Bridge Logistics who were only registered to handle the fertiliser and crops, would send Malawi directors to go and look for the market when the company is “supposedly international.”
“Likhwa Mussa confirmed all we have been saying, East Bridge is a bogus company. Their lies do not add up. How would Malawi directors go and look for market for East Bridge Romania which according to Minister Kawale is an established company which has production lines and supplies fertiliser across the world? Again, either Kawale or Mussa did not do their homework on how to lie in this matter,” said our analyst.
The portrayed actively looking for markets for produce that is yet to be grown and for fertiliser yet to be delivered should worry Malawians, as Kawale said in a recorded interview, payment will only be done after two years from the delivery date.
“Which crops are they looking the market for? What quantities are there? And when will Malawi produce it as it has two years to supply? This was cashgate disguised as fertiliser deal. They are looking forward to cashing sovereign guarantees for overpriced fertiliser they will supply in small quantities. This is the work of a criminal mastermind, who forgot most people can separate fiction and lies from reality,” said another official.
Law Society, ACB probe could save Malawians.
It is apparent that the Ministry of Agriculture will not be backing down from the deal despite all the lies that have been proven in public and rejection of the same by the Anti-Corruption Bureau, Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority-PPDA, and Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS) since it has vested political and financial interest in the scam.
The official request from the Malawi Law Society to the Anti-Corruption Bureau is likely to yield an investigation on the exact nature of the deal and that could save over K250 billion of taxpayers’ money that has been classified as “windfall” by Mphwiyo during his meetings with fellow “Directors.”
Mphwiyo was reported to be in Durban, South Africa at a Hotel whose details we are holding as we attempt to verify the information.
The Investigator Magazine will update you on its investigation of a Malawi Congress Party official who has turned into a billionaire and is a close associate of President Chakwera who is alleged to have also paid for the fertiliser in Turkey. The official is establishing himself in the Northern region.