The Malawi Government has terminated a controversial multi-billion contract awarded to Techno Brain to upgrade the passport issuance system and introduce an e-passport.
Malawi Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda confirmed the new developments saying the cancellation is in accordance with Sector 46 (c) of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Act 2017.
“We must always do the right thing, no matter what it takes. As a country, we have a duty to ensure that we safeguard public funds from plunder. As a government, everything we do must be done with the people at the centre of it because we serve the people,” he said.
The contract worth Sh6.7 billion ($60m) was terminated unceremoniously following allegations of corruption.
In 2018, the then ruling President Peter Mutharika-led administration entered into an agreement with Techno Brain Global FZE to supply electronic passports and upgrade the passport issuance systems under Build Operate Transfer (BOT) model.
According to the contract, it was agreed that Techno Brain would fund all the initial processes including training, meetings, travels as well as production costs as regards deliverables for the printing of passports.
The Department of Immigration was supposed to provide project office, physical space, water, electricity, security, the Project Manager and make an available staff for designated training sessions.
A Build-Operate-and-Transfer (BOT) agreement is an agreement between the government and an investor in which the investor undertakes construction and financing of a large-scale infrastructure project and operates and maintains it for an agreed period and hands it over to the government at the end of the period.
BOTs are one of the forms of international investment and they are a means of developing a country’s infrastructure without the Government having to invest public money whilst ensuring that the relevant assets ultimately remain in the public sector.
Human rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) in September this year wrote to the Minister of Homeland Security, Richard Chimwendo Banda, asking him to facilitate the cancellation of the contract since it favored Techno Brain Global at the expense of the interest of Malawians.
The new developments come into play immediately after the World Bank banned the Kenyan IT firm, Techno Brain (Kenya) Limited and its United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based parent company Techno Brain Global FZ-LLC for fraud in an Integrated Public Financial Management Reform Project in Liberia.
The Kenyan unit will remain banned from World Bank-supported projects for 28 months while its parent company will remain blacklisted for 10 months.
“The debarments make Techno Brain Kenya and Techno Brain UAE ineligible to participate in projects and operations financed by institutions of the World Bank Group. It is part of a settlement agreement under which the companies acknowledge culpability and responsibility for the underlying sanctionable practices and agree to meet specified corporate compliance conditions as a condition for release from debarment,” the World Bank said in a statement.
The project, since renamed the Public Financial Management Reforms for Institutional Strengthening, was designed to improve domestic revenue mobilisation systems and strengthen financial control and accountability in public finances.
According to the facts of the case, Techno Brain Kenya and Techno Brain UAE engaged in an arrangement to obtain and edit confidential bidding documentation so as to influence the awarding of a contract in their favor.
Mr Nyirenda said that he is on a mission to legally right all correctable wrongs and to recover every penny stolen from the public purse.
Malawi has recently received UN funding to establish a digital ID database to improve access to services.