An investigation into the controversial K 364 million Neno road construction contract award process to South African company, Romix Industries, has shown that Roads Authority Chairperson Brown Mpinganjira may have breached conflict-of-interest protocols in public procurement.
A research by this reporter has shown that while Brown Mpinganjira is Board Chairperson of the contract awarding entity, his long time protégé, Henry Mvaya, is Romix Malawi’s Manager whereas FDH Bank, owned by Mpinganjira’s cousin Thom, is reportedly performance guarantor in the controversial deal.
Typically, a conflict of interest arises when a public officer finds himself or herself occupying two social roles simultaneously, thereby potential for generating opposing benefits or loyalties.
In a rare moment of coincidence, the three named people once served together as Board members of the now defunct MalawiNet and are known to have maintained familial and business relations over the years.
An investigation by this reporter has established that Mvaya is Mpinganjira’s long time protégé and is now a Manager (Company Secretary) at Romix Malawi reportedly situated along Mapeto Road at Tikumbe in Blantyre.
We gather that Mvaya pulled the administrative logistics in the foreground on behalf of Romix in Malawi in pursuit of the controversial K 364 million deal, while Mpinganjira was at the helm of the Roads Authority.
We also have it on good authority that Mvaya processed an application to have the FDH Bank, a commercial bank owned by Mpinganjira’s cousin, become the guarantor for the controversial Romix deal.
The bank is yet to comment.
Managing Director for the South African based Romix Industries Pieter Prinsloo has admitted on the record that Mvaya is now in the employment of the company, running administration in Malawi. He was, however, quick to dispute ever knowing that the local parties to the Romix deal were close.
“They may be good friends and that friendship did assist us to get an opportunity to present our technology to Mr. Brown (Mpinganjira) and the Roads Authority,” Prinsloo stated, further clarifying that bribery was not involved.
“Mr. Mvaya is in the employ of our company for his knowledge and business acumen. Of course, he has contacts, and we will use those to promote our business in Malawi,” he added.
On how Mvaya got into the picture if not for Mpinganjira, Prinsloo, said: “Not at all. Mr. [Julian] Apfel, from South Africa, my co-director, has been doing business with Mr. Mvaya for more than 25 years. He was appointed because of his excellent financial abilities having been at the head of finance for the Malawi electricity utility.”
The reporter coincidentally chanced upon Mvaya’s name copied in an email correspondence with Prinsloo alongside Apfel, the only other Romix Malawi Director.
After conducting a background check and some inquiries, it was established that the relationship of the Mulanje stablemates long pre-dates Mpinganjira’s appointment as Roads Authority Board Chairperson and Mvaya’s recent recruitment at Romix Industries.
An archival research into the country’s company records has further corroborated our findings that the two Mpinganjiras and Mvayo have a history of a solid business relationship.
In the 90s, for example, the trio sat on the MalawiNet Board together, according to findings of our investigations.
At that time, Mpinganjira Snr was Information Minister, the other Mpinganjira was Chairperson of the Malawi Stockbrockers LTD while Mvaya was an Internal Auditor at the then Malawi Post and Telecommunications Corporation (MPTC) which, then, coincidentally, fell under the information ministry.
In a follow up to a question on whether Romix Industries was going to fulfill its contractual requirements in a month’s time as required by the Roads Authority, Prinsloo wrote: “I am extremely happy to report that I have received a letter of guarantee from the FDH Bank. We will submit these to the Roads Authority on Monday.”
In an interview with iHubOnline, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Emmanuel Matapa said the Roads Authority is not aware of Mvaya or his alleged relationship with Mpinganjira, Romix are better placed to comment.
“The evaluation criteria, under personnel requirements in the tender document, the Roads Authority requested bidders to provide names and CVs for Site Foreman and Site Agent. Mr. Mvaya’s do not appear in any of the bid documentation submitted by Romix to the Roads Authority not even as power of attorney or Director,” said Matapa.
Matapa also said that, in line with Roads Authority’s policy against corruption in procurement of road projects, staff with known acquaintances is under the moral obligation to recuse themselves from such procurement deals.
“Clause 64.1 of the General Condition of Contract of Low Volume Sealed Roads which Zaka – Neno road project is using empowers the Roads Authority to cancel any contract should it transpire that corruption was involved in getting the said contract,” he added.
Under section 14 of the National Roads Authority Act, the Board – under the leadership of the Board Chairperson – is held accountable and responsible to government in ensuring efficiency, transparency and propriety in the allocation and utilization of public funds, the conduct of its business and the operations and activities of the roads agency, RA.
In addition, a public officer accused of exercising undue influence and abuse of public office may be charged with an offense under section 25 (b) (1) of the Corrupt Practices Act.
As head of the Roads Authority Board, the Board Chairperson is tasked with making critical decisions, which include ensuring transparency and accountability during the award of contracts in line with the Roads Authority Act.
The Romix deal hangs in the balance due to lack of the National Construction Industry Council of Malawi (NCIC) certificate.
Additionally, the company also faces another regulatory bottleneck as it is required to register the company’s signature chemical for making roads, Soilfix Polymer, with the Pharmacy, Medicines and Poisons Board as well as the Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS).
~ iHubOnline 2019