…Chodzi demands hidden documentation
…GCU fire raises eyebrows
Hours after Lawyers for Forum for National Development (FND) submitted to the High Court a list of documentation required in the hearing of the Salima Lilongwe Water Project injunction case, a key office to the process got burnt, raising questions on what is there to be hidden from the public.
The Investigator Magazine has requested the Office of the President and Cabinet, Treasury, Director of Public Procurement, the Ministry of Water, and the Lilongwe Water Board information related to the project under the Access to Information Act (2016).
Early morning hours of Sunday, Tikwere House which houses the Ministry of Lands deeds registry, Office of the President and Cabinet Government Contracting Unit and the Ministry of Water was gutted by fire, and fire engines were not readily available until engines from Kamuzu International Airport- some 30km away managed to stop the fire.
GCU is under probe by the Anti-Corruption Bureau over several contracts and it is also central to approvals and documentation to all major public contracts which it approves, including the Salima Lilongwe Water project.
Police confirmed the fire but said investigations are underway to establish what happened. The building also caught fire on July 21, 2019. Government buildings have been catching suspicious fires especially when officials are under investigation. Nobody has ever been arrested in relation to all previous fires.
FND Executive Director Fryson Chodzi’s lawyers have asked National Bank, NBS Bank, Khato Civils, and Attorney General for a litany of documents that could give a glimpse into how the controversial project has been managed within public procurement rules.
The documents, which will be public documents if submitted to the court, will inform Malawians the decision-makers who have been cutting corners to pay or get funds for the project.
Chodzi has asked National Bank and NBS Bank to submit offer letters for the loan, terms, and conditions, and any documentation generated in relation to the loan.
“All contracts between the 3RD Defendant (Khato) and Malawi Government and/or Lilongwe Water Board, including all documents for the novation of the said contract to relieve the 3rd Defendant of the duty to raise own financing,” reads the request submitted on Friday.
The lawyers add, “All security and performance bond documents for the said project processed by the 3rd Defendant.”
Khato Civils, according to the original contract on its website, was supposed to raise its own financing but in April this year, Government bulldozed a bill to authorise the borrowing of K105 billion from National Bank and NBS Bank. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have warned Malawi that borrowing for the project would raise national debt already considered unsustainable.
Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda who has so far displayed panic over the matter has a long list of documents to supply, which he is likely to object to as he does not want the public to get information on deals that are not in public interest.
Chodzi Lawyers want Chakaka Nyirenda to furnish the court with no objection letters from the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority and Government Contracting Unit.
“All documents for the Cabinet Approvals at all stages of the Lake Malawi Water Supply Project,” states the application which The Investigator Magazine has seen.
The Lawyers also want to see exchanges between Malawi Government and the Lilongwe Water Board over the project and the Diamphwe Dam Project which seems to be ignored by politicians with interests in the Salima project.
The contract for Khato Civils has never been made public and requests for its copy have always fallen on deaf years raising suspicions about what is contained in the document. Khato Civils has so far
been paid K25 billion despite the project failing to find a financier.
Justice Ken Manda will hear from the banks, Khato and Chakaka Nyirend on May 30 all of whom want the matter dismissed.
The government has started harassing Chodzi sending him a tax arrears notice without indicating which years he accumulated and from which source of income.