MERA CEO Collins Magalasi arrested

Collins Magalasi

Police in Lilongwe have arrested Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (MERA) Chief Executive Officer Collins Magalasi and spokesperson Patrick Maulidi. 

National Police spokesperson, James Kadadzera has confirmed the arrests. 

"Yes its true that we have arrested MERA CEO and his PRO Patrick Maulidi, we cannot say anything on why we have done that to avoid jeopardising investigations," said Kadadzera. 

Last Thursday, police arrested Bright Mbewe from MERA's procurement office for alleged fraud in the procurement of a laboratory van.

Recently MERA came under the spotlight for purchasing a mobile fuel testing vehicle for a whooping K704 million.

Previously, the tests were being referred to Malawi Bureau of Standards. 

The procurement costed MERA an amount of K563,200,000 through cheque number 26180 and another cheque of K140, 800,000.00 bringing the total amount to K704 million

Further digging revealed that the procurement was done through open tender Procurement number MERA: 2/04/2018/08 where City Motors emerged a successful bidder.

Two weeks ago, the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) reported to the ACB a suspected case of fraud in the contract agreement for the procurement of the new mobile laboratory fuel testing van.

HRDC chairperson Gift Trapence in a letter sent to ACB dated July 12 2020 said information from a whistle-blower revealed suspected flaws in the implementation of the procurement contract.

“On 7th May 2019, Mera paid City Motors K563,200,000 which translates into 80 percent as advance payment. Our reading of the procurement laws, especially the Procurement Regulations, shows that it is illegal to make advance payment in purchase of goods procured locally," said the letter in part.

The ACB acknowledged receiving the tip and promised to carry out investigations.

Last week, HRDC wrote the ACB again asking it to probe a contract that the regulator awarded to a firm to supply electronic fuel level sensors for tankers and storage tanks.

In a letter dated July 17, 2020, addressed to ACB Director-General, Reyneck Matemba, HRDC alleged that MERA deliberately bypassed procurement procedures to award the contract to Mars International/Mike Appeal JV who were not the lowest evaluated bidder to supply 1,447 and 135 electronic sensors for fuel tankers and depot fuel storage tanks, respectively, at K3,254,492,77.62.

The electronic fuel sensors were meant to check the siphoning of fuel from tanks of trucks and depots and Mera opted for restricted tendering of the materials.

In the letter, HRDC wondered why Mera proceeded to award the contract to Mars International in 2018 which was increased by K800 million despite objections from the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDAA) that the firm was not the lowest evaluated bidder and lacked proof of a proven record in similar work.

The letter further alleged that out of the targeted 1,447 trucks, Mars International only installed sensors on less than 20 trucks.

HRDC went on to accuse MERA of micromanaging the fuel industry and questioned the regulator’s interest in financing the installing of electronic sensors on private trucks and private fuel depots.

For his part, Magalasi told the media that the Authority would cooperate with the investigations as they have nothing to hide.

Since taking over, the ACB and other law enforcement agencies have made a number of arrests of top ranking government officials suspected of being involved in fraudulent activities.