By Duncan Mlanjira
Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has written the government lending its credence to the concerns expressed by European Investment Bank (EIB) over the deploying of Godfrey Itaye — answering alleged charges of fraud and corruption — to become Chief Executive Officer for Lilongwe Water Board (LWB).
The EIB has written the Ministry of Finance that it has considered the request to increase the financing of the project — under Lilongwe Drought Resilience Programme — from Euro12.5 million to Euro15 million but the financing is waiting the approval of the executive management later this month.
However, EIB has reminded the Ministry of Finance of the irregularities at the Lilongwe Water Board (LWB) some three years ago that involved the procurement of prepaid water meters that led to an investigation by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) which was supported by the EIB’s Fraud and Investigations Division.
“This led to charges being brought against a number of individuals who we understand are now awaiting trial,” says the letter signed by Sub-Saharan Africa’s Head of Division Diederick Zamboanga and Senior Investment Officer Jim Hodges dated October 8, 2020.
“One individual [Sinosi Maliano] is still currently employed by LWB as Head of Production and Distribution. As a requirement of our lending, please be aware that while he faces charges he would be required to have no involvement what so ever in this project to be financed by the EIB.”
EIB further says in a joint letter with the World Bank in March 2020, it had highlighted to the Ministry of Finance the two donors’ concerns of management changes at LWB and sought assurance of the government’s commitment to upholding the principles of good corporate governance in handling issues concerning water utility companies in the country.
“On 9th April, 2020 we received written assurances from the Ministry of Finance that the new Chief Executive Officer for the Lilongwe Water Board would be competitively recruited and that the EIB and the World Bank would be updated once the recruitment process is complete.
“Unfortunately, we did not receive such an update and consequently it is difficult to determine if a competitive recruitment process was undertaken.
“It was with much disappointment when we learnt of reports in the media that the newly appointed Chief Executive Officer of Lilongwe Water Board [Godfrey Itaye] has been arrested and may be facing criminal charges.”
Itaye’s alleged fraud and corruption allegations were allegedly done whilst he was director general for Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) but he was transferred to become LWB CEO, where his arrest was executed.
This development, according to the EIB letter, is causing considerable concern since the EIB is in the process of obtaining approval from the its Executive Management for the financing of the TWIII, it had hoped to conclude the finance contract with the Ministry of Finance by the end of the year.
“However, the charges raised against the Chief Executive Officer of Lilongwe Water Board will negatively impact our ability to conclude the finance contract with the Ministry of Finance as we are unable to have persons under criminal charges involved in our projects, particularly given the relatively recent incident of irregularity as outlined above.
“Consequently, we seek an understanding of the status of the Chief Executive Officer, potential charges he may face and actions the Ministry is taking to remedy the situation.
“We look forward to receiving information in the very near future given the need to commence work on the water treatment plant,” says the letter.
HRDC’s petition to the government — through Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Zangazanga Chikhosi entitled ‘Holding the Country to Ransom’ — takes cognizance of the letter from the EIB (Ref. No. Ops/GP-2/20190466/JH/em) and reminds that HRDC has all along expressed its concerns in previous letters to the ACB, about suspects holding the country to ransom.
“Malawians strongly feel that they should not wait for donors to tell us to do what is right,” says the petition. “The country ought to know and do what is right.
“There are so many of such cases of suspects still holding critical positions in Government; HRDC thinks Government and its law enforcement agencies are slow in acting against them.
“Your office, Sir, ought to be aware of people in the public service who were recruited or promoted without following procedures.
“There are numerous examples of public officers who actively participated in politics including donning political party cloth.
“These people are still in the public service. We wonder how you
expect to drain the swamp with these kinds of people in critical government positions.
“HRDC is requesting your honorable office to act on these matters expeditiously as inaction has a serious bearing on the development of this country,” says the letter signed by national chairperson, Gift Trapence and national coordinator, Luke Tembo seconded by regional chairpersons — Happy Mhango (North); Madalitso Banda (East); Masauko Thawe (South) and Billy Mayaya (Centre).