By Duncan Mlanjira
Despite continuous exposure by the media through prominent members of the public on the suspicious business countenance of Kenyan firm, Techno Brain, — over the past two years — the previous government administration still insisted on doing business with the foreign company.
Today, the whistleblowers have been vindicated as the World Bank Group has banned this IT-services company and its parent company, United Arab Emirates-based Techno Brain Global FZ-LLC for 28 months in connection with collusive and fraudulent practices as part of the ‘integrated public financial management reform project’ in Liberia.
According to the facts of the case, Techno Brain Kenya and Techno Brain UAE engaged in an arrangement to obtain and edit confidential bidding documentation so as to influence the awarding of a contract in their favor in Liberia.
In 2018, following public concerns channelled through the media, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) informed Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority to put on hold Malawi Immigration Department’s e-passport project — whose contract had been awarded to Techno Brain.
But Techno Brain — in blatant defiance — quickly challenged ACB, asking it to confirm what was termed as “unqualified rumors”.
However, in 2019, the Immigration Department went to announce that it was digitalising passport through e-payment and application services to be done by the foreign company, Techno Brain.
The previous administration also involved Techno Brain in Ministry of Information and Technology’s Malawi Digital Empowerment Scholarship Programme (MDESP) — a government funded, job-oriented and industry-program for qualified technology talents.
This week, the World Bank issued a statement that Kenyan unit will remain banned from World Bank supported projects for 28 months while its parent company will remain blacklisted for 10 months.
“The debarments make Techno Brain Kenya and Techno Brain UAE ineligible to participate in projects and operations financed by institutions of the World Bank Group,” World Bank said in a statement.
“It is part of a settlement agreement under which the companies acknowledge culpability and responsibility for the underlying sanctionable practices and agree to meet specified corporate compliance conditions as a condition for release from debarment.”
According to the World Bank, the Liberia project was designed to improve domestic revenue mobilisation systems and strengthen financial control and accountability in public finances.
Just last week, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) had asked the government that it should not wait for donors to tell the nation how to do what is right.
“The country ought to know and do what is right,” HRDC had said in 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 for Malawi to have its loan to be increased and approved for the water project — under Lilongwe Drought Resilience Programme — it will not want any administrator, involved in corrupt practices, to have a hand what so ever in this project to be financed by the EIB.
First the irregularities were that some three years ago LWB was involved in fraudulent procurement of prepaid water meters that led to an investigation by the ACB, which the EIB was also engaged in through its Fraud and Investigations Division.
Charges were brought against a number of individuals, now awaiting trial but one of them — Head of Production and Distribution Sinosi Maliano — is still under employment.
While all this was happening at LWB, the previous DPP administration decided to redeploy Itaye as director general of Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) to become LWB CEO.
But he was later arrested on alleged fraud and corruption allegations that were reportedly done whilst at MACRA.
EIB indicates that the previous administration had assured that replacement of the LWB CEO would be done through a competitive recruitment process only for the government to just plant Itaye there, much to the chagrin of EIB.
This is what prompted HRDC to ask the government that it ought to know and do what is right and not wait for donors to guide the nation.
The case in point of the Kenyan form Techno Brain vindicates that whistleblowers — through the ACB — did some two years ago and also HRDC’s concerns over the EIB case.