Controversial Blantyre-based business mogul Abdul Karim Batatawala who is claiming about K62 billion from Malawi government on deliveries that were allegedly not made, has dragged to court Department of Immigration and Citizenship on the procurement of K27 billion contract to upgrade the Passport Issuance System (PIS) and Introduction of the Electronic Passport .
Malawi government is challenging Batatawala on the supply of Immigration Department uniforms worth K64 billion when their budget is only K500 million a year – in a defiantly Cashgate affair.
But as government is in the process of taking legal challenge on the matter against Batatawala to save the public purse billions, the tycoon has dragged Immigration Department to court after obtaining an interlocutory injunction stopping Department of Immigration and Citizenship on the contract to upgrade the Passport Issuance System (PIS) and Introduction of the Electronic Passport .
Karim Batatawala’s company IRIS Group SA bid was disqualified on preliminary assessment by the department’s Internal Procurement Committee after it failed to meet basic requirements.
The department was impressed with the bid of Two Trees Investments as a joint venture with ZETES, a reputable Belgium firm, which had withdrawn from bidding after it was among the 10 firms invited to bid.
Other bidders included passport booklets supplier Technobrain which is under investigations by the Anti Corruption Bureau .
But IRIS of Batatawala obtained the injunction accusing Immigration Department of breaching bid regulation for the contract.
The bid document Clause: 11.1 of page 22 states that ‘A bidder shall be allowed to enter into a joint venture with other consultants not invited for this assignment.’
The clause caused some mist after ZETES which was invited to participate decided to withdraw before bidding and then had a join venture with Two Trees.
IRIS Group SA accused the Chief Immigration Officer Innocent Medi of breaching its own bidders’ instructions.
But Director General of Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA), Timothy Kalembo, informed Ministry of Homeland Security in a letter dated December 5 2018 that section 2 of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Act 2017 provides that a bidder “means any participant who has expressed interest in procurement proceedings by submitting a bid.”
ZETES did not submit a bid but had a join venture, therefore it was not an initial bidder.
Kalembo said in the letter that if the bidding document says that no bidder will go into joint venture with another bidder who has participated in these proceedings, then the meaning is that such another bidder must have submitted a bid in those proceedings.
“In our present case, the other party has withdrawn by not submitting a bid which means that such a party cannot be said to be a bidder. The provisions of the Act must prevail when the provision in the bidding document is inconsistent with the provision of the Act,” reads Kalembo’s letter as seen by Nyasa Times.
The authority’s director general clarified that the fact that a bidder is on a join venture with a party who expressed interest in the proceedings but did not submit a bid cannot be used a s a ground to fall a bid of a joint venture “since the other party who withdrew is not a bidder in accordance with the Act.”
Batatawala is not new to controversy. He was arrested for alleged tax evasion worth billions of Kwachas.
Warrants of arrest Malawi Revenue Authority obtained from Blantyre Chief Resident Magistrate indicate that between 2009 and 2014 three Batatawala brothers [Abdul, Aslam and Mahomed], “Knowingly concealed and suppressed” information on sales amounting to over K30 billion with a view to “fraudulently evade value-added tax (VAT)” contrary to Section 49(1) of the VAT Act Chapter 42:02 of the Laws of Malawi.
Source: All Africa