The country’s graft agency Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on Wednesday, July 20, 2022 tendered in court two lockers as part of evidence in the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services procurement contracts case against businessperson Abdul Karim Batatawala and three others.
Batatawala is being tried alongside former Department of Immigration chief immigration officer Elvis Thodi as well as the department’s commissioner responsible for operations Fletcher Nyirenda and deputy director Limbani Chawinga.
ACB officials take one of the lockers reportedly bought at K2.9 million from the courtroom
When the court reconvened on Wednesday, ACB director general Martha Chizuma told the Blantyre Magistrate’s Court that the State brought two different four-layer cabinet lockers to demonstrate that they were not worth the quoted price of about MK2.9 million each in 2009.
Besides the two lockers, the State paraded two witnesses, namely Saddock Malenga, a former information management officer in the Department of Immigration’s Research and Planning Unit, as well as Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS) deputy director of testing services Stephen Chalimba.
In his testimony, Chalimba said he conducted several tests on the lockers to ascertain their status as fire resistant, but found that although the cabinet lockers passed other tests, they failed the thickness test.
He said: “Fire locker plates failed in thickness. If any product fails on one standard test, it means the entire product does not meet the standards.”
During cross-examination, one of Batatawala’s lawyers, Alexious Nampota, asked Chalimba if that was the first time MBS was approached by an institution to conduct tests.
“Did they (ACB) tell you that they received complaints regarding the cabinet lockers?” he asked.
In response, Chalimba said it was not the first time to be approached by an institution and that the ACB informed MBS that it had received a complaint.
Presidening senior resident magistrate Martin Chipofya adjourned proceedings to today when ACB is expected to parade three more witnesses.
Last December, the bureau arrested Batatawala, Nyirenda, Chawinga and Thodi for suspected corrupt practices in the procurement of contracts for uniforms and other accessories at the Immigration Department.
The suspects are accused of conspiracy to defraud by inflating the market price of 500 lockers procured by the department from Africa Commercial Agency owned by Batatawala under contract number IM/01/85 dated March 22 2010 valued at K2 950 560 per unit price totaling MK1 475 280 000.