Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The stinger stung

Henry Mussa - Malawi's minister of works - and SecGen in waiting?I really don't know what to make of this report from the Chronicle Newspaper in Lilongwe via, other than to say that – undoubtedly due to my perverted sense of humour – I found it hugely amusing.

The report, under the headline, "Malawi govt uses EU name to dupe suppliers" tells how the government, which cannot attract suppliers for various items due to its failure to honour payments, has used the name of European Union to dupe four major companies to supply it with vehicles, tractors and other equipment.

This goes back to June last year when the Malawi ministry of transport and public works advertised for the supply of plant, equipment and vehicles. To ensure that it got a good crop of bidders, though, it claimed that the financing would be by the Government of Malawi with support from the European Development Fund (EDF).

Interestingly, the government had applied for EU funding but had been turned down. It went ahead with the tender invitation anyway, using the EU's EDF format. The ploy worked and, unusually, its ministry received overwhelming response. Companies were encouraged that they would be able to tender without concerns about usual delays of payment because the tender was backed financially by the European Union.

However, more than a year on, the government of Malawi has only paid 60 percent of the money now owed to four successful bidders and is failing to pay the remainder.

The scam came to light when the companies started chasing their balances in Brussels, only to have EU officials deny any involvement with the contract. The commission has now written to the government of Malawi protesting at this misrepresentation.

Minister of public works, Henry Mussa, however, is unrepentant. He is stating that he cannot recall any tender advertisement for the supply of the goods. "I am in the bush, very far away here in Mwanza where I am inspecting public works projects," he told the Chronicle.

"I am not involved in the day-to-day running pf operations. I only come in on policy issues; where there is need for political will and policy guidance. The ministry's chief executive is the principal secretary - he is the one you can talk to," explained Mussa.

Whether the companies involved – including Toyota Malawi – will ever see their money is questionable. But one thing you have to concede is that, while the tender may not have been genuine, Mr Mussa's approach to ministerial responsibility is pure, undistilled European Union.

Seems to me that, when Kofi finally gets his pension, the UN could do no better than headhunt our Henry.


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