Following the publication of a story in our last week’s edition where some District Commissioners complained that some private suppliers were pressing for payment for presidential portraits which were supplied by Ministry of Local Government, more evidence continues to emerge which shows that some senior Peoples Party (PP) officials were involved in the deal.

Our investigations have established that PP Regional Director for Women in the Centre Edith Mtunga and provincial executive member for the centre Frank Kagone have been using the name of the party to squeeze district councils to pay them when the councils were not told that they would be required to pay a private supplier for the portraits.

Kagone in a telephone interview admitted that he works together with Mtunga as Chalechera Enterprises of P/Bag B 375, Lilongwe.

“It is true that we won the tender as Chalechera,” he said, “but it was only by mistakes that Mrs Mtunga’s name appeared on the invoice. Of course I work together with the Mtungas.

But [this time I did] not [work with] Edith. I worked with her daughter Rachel. I cannot say how much was our winning bid but all I can say is that it was an open tender.”

Kasungu District Commissioner Harrison Lende told the media last week that

“we are confused as we don’t know who to pay. Otherwise we are receiving calls from different people claiming to be ruling party officials asking us to pay them for the same.”

The DC said that the middlemen were threatening to report him to the Director of Finance (DoF) at the ministry as they were ruling party officials.

District Commissioners for Mchinji, Salima, Balaka and Mangochi also confirmed having received the portraits from their line ministry.

Lende referred this reporter to the DoF, Christopher Makileni, whom the DCs said was in charge of the whole process.

But Makileni denied the claim referring the issue to Director of Chiefs Administration Lawrence Makonokaya.

Makonokaya said he was only involved in facilitating the portraits to chiefs and tossed the ball back to Makileni.

Makileni this week reacted by asking Malawi News to retract the story claiming it was bent at tarnishing his good image. He, however, changed tune when he claimed to know Chalechera. He denied the same during our interview for the first story.

” Secretary for Local Government and Rural Development, Mr Kaphaizi in Karonga noted that councils had difficulties to source H.E’s portraits as such he directed that the ministry procures them on behalf of any council that may not have them.

“The procurement committee in the ministry sourced them by getting three quotations. The lowest according to my understanding was Chelachera,” he said.

“The supplier is Frank Kagone and not Mrs. E. Mtunga as you alleged in your article.

Whatever the arrangement was there for Mr. Kagone to issue invoices bearing Mrs. Mtunga’s name is none of our business.”

Makileni also trashed assertions by director of Information, Isaac Ziba, who said that his ministry stopped involving intermediaries in handling of portraits.

“What Director of Information forgot to tell you is that he does not run Local Government and was not the right person to speak on behalf of Local government,” he said.

PP’s First Deputy Secretary General, George Zulu, who was mentioned as a business partner with Kagone and Mtunga denied his involvement in the scam.

“I don’t work with those two in my businesses. You can make your investigations. In party matters yes, but as for business I have my own partner not the two,” Zulu said.

He, however, admitted that his officials are involved in the sale of the portraits saying they were entitled to do that as Malawians.

“When I read that article I made my investigations and found that these people are selling to Local Government both picture and frame hence the price difference. It depends on the quality of the frame.

“It’s true that the people mentioned are our party officials but they also have a right to economic activity just like any other Malawian. If anything all the other suppliers belong to different parties, don’t they? However if they are using the party’s name to press for payment as you are saying, is another matter. It may be an individual’s strategy to get what belongs to them but we don’t approve that as a party,” said Zulu.

Secretary for Local Government Kester Kaphaizi said, “the arrangement is that individual councils pay for their portraits. In fact they have an allocation for that. The ministry just came in to facilitate some of the logistics as some councils are located in far places. But regarding the process and identification of suppliers, I don’t know anything.”

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ZIMENE MUMAKONDA

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