SOME civil society organisations have said they will conduct an audit of what Paladin Africa Limited (PAL), miners of uranium at Kayelekera in Karonga, have done as part of corporate social responsibility (CSR) drive against what it promised the people of Karonga.

Rafiq Hajat, Executive Director of the Institute for Police Interaction (IPI), a member of the civil society organisations involved, confirmed the intended audit at the weekend, stressing that already the organisations have seen too little done on the ground.

“The social responsibility agreement was followed by a variation which was negotiated by the civil society where we agreed on specific points,” said Hajat in an interview.

“An audit is called for. The civil society will hold an audit to gauge what was promised against what has been delivered and what is outstanding. And then we will negotiate with Paladin to ensure that what is outstanding is delivered, Hajat said.”

An outline of what Paladin agreed to do as part of social responsibility to communities around Kayelekera is believed to be in an agreement the company signed with government but which has however remained secretive.

Hajat said regardless of the development, the CSOs will use an agreement they struck with Paladin in 2008 which outlines some key projects the company undertook to do for communities around Kayelekera.

“We have our own settlement deed and that was signed between us [the civil society] and Paladin and government. We have a starting point already,” added Hajat.

“What has happened does not inspire confidence. Very little has happened. Yes, Paladin has done some things here and there and they are using that to say they are discharging corporate responsibility. Our agreement transcends corporate responsibility. It is very specific and that hasn’t been complied with.”

He said people are already complaining against the lack of action on what was promised.

However, PAL’s Senior Community Development Officer Jim Nottingham maintained in an interview that the company is already fulfilling its promises on corporate social responsibility.

In an earlier interview, Greg Walker, Paladin Africa General Manager told our sister paper The Business Times that the organisation planned to spend US$10 million on social development, but it actually spent US$16 million (about K5.3 billion)

“We were committed under the development agreement to do certain things and chiefly was the development of the Karonga Water Project. Under the terms of the development agreement, we were committed to spend US$8.2 million on that. We didn’t actually have to complete the water project. The agreement says we have to contribute US$8.2 million,” Walker said.

He said Northern Region Water Board came up with a US$20 million project and Paladin contributed US$8.2 million.

“And they never found the money for the balance. And so the thing never got built, we would still have fulfilled our obligation. But we said we are not going to contribute to a white elephant that never get built or it is built but doesn’t work.

“We want to see that thing completed and working so that it is actually a legacy,” Walker said.

He said Paladin spent US$10 million alone on the water project.

“Just last week we announced that we are spending an extra US$300,000 on upgrading because the intake was originally put in the lake and it was inadequate and that actually ripped it apart. And we have also had a problem with vandalism. So we are spending an extra US$300,000 to upgrade the intake and make sure that it is safe, secure and it works.

“We were also required to build a school in Kayelekera, to provide teachers’ housing and this was all done. This was all done at a cost of US$16 million. It’s fully accounted for and audited,” Walker said.

Kayerekera Uranium Mine is currently the biggest mining investor in Malawi.

Meanwhile, a group of CSOs which gathered for a citizen-led conference on issues affecting the people of Karonga on Tuesday last week resolved that there are a number of issues but people lack forums where they could be addressed.

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ZIMENE MUMAKONDA

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