By Alfred Mthandizi
Forum for National Development, has called for law enforcement agencies to thoroughly investigation inside trading, supply and procurement of text books in Malawi.
This follows Maneno bookstore and its agent Mallory International LTD who have embarked upon ruining each other’s name and reputation of the ICTC Malawi Limited that won the bulk of the Ministry of education tender to print textbooks.
The company has launched a smear campaign to ruin the name of ICTC Malawi Limited.
However, addressing the press on Tuesday, Forum for National Development (FND) said the organization has taken a keen interest in the events of the last two weeks with each investigation leading to serious inside trading on the supply and procurement of text books in Malawi.
This inside trading smacks a huge case of corruption and dirty businesses which in the last few day FND established that there is a closed link between the alleged kidnapping of a Managing Director for ICTC and the issue of supply of text books and hence the need to ensure that the trading be investigated and ensure that there is fair trading in Malawi.
FND says they have done thorough investigation, regarding the Text Book industry which has always had few players in Malawi. “The Consolidator in this case is a company which has a financial muscle to do basically the following: Getting the manufacturer’s (publishers) authorization to buy books on behalf of the government; printing books on behalf of the government with publishers shipping and clearing of the books and delivery to the Malawi government. Initially from time immemorial, there has been two United Kingdom (UK) companies who have been acting as consolidators, namely Tradewings and Mallory International.” said Fryson Chodzi FND National coordinator. Chodzi said Mallory partnered with a local company, Maneno and uses the company called Mallory and Maneno Joint Venture as consolidators. According to Chodzi, the third company on the scene is the ICTC which is a local based company also acting as a Consolidator. “The recent cases have emanated from the new bid of which the three companies competed. Out of the three, FND has established that Tradewings was the first, followed by ICTC and Mallory and Maneno was the last. Tradewings was disqualified on the recommendations from Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) as the company is being investigated. Then the contract was awarded to the second bidder which is ICTC”
Dirty dealings by Maneno
Chodzi said when the contract was awarded to ICTC; Maneno took offence and worked so hard to stop the contract. For starters, Maneno also works as a publisher with a joint venture called Cambridge and Maneno Press which in itself is a conflict of interest to act as a consolidator.
Taking his turn, Chikumbutso Mtumodzi said Maneno has been working so hard to frustrate ICTC by in some cases conniving with the all the publishers not to give ICTC the manufacture’s authorization, and where possible the Publishers must quote as high as US$15 per book when the actual price of the book is around US$5. “This was just to monopolize the book industry and that no any other new players emerge in the scene. With as many threats as possible to the Ministry of Education and publishers, the Government decided to sprit the contract by awarding them based on lots and cheapest bidders on each lot. To this effect, Maneno got Lot 1 and ICTC got Lot 1 and 2. This however did not satisfy Maneno which started a smearing campaign among publishers against ICTC.” said Mtumodzi.
According to Mtumodzi, all these dirty dealings provide pointers of inside dealing and monopoly in the text books industry and if not checked can derail the access to education of our youth. Further that there is information about alleged kidnapping and attempted murder of the Managing Director of ICTC should send shivers in the spines of Malawians and hence the need to overhaul the whole system and investigate the culprits for wrong doing. “Under the Competitions and Fair Trade rules, inside trading is an offense punishable by law, and it’s only proper that the roles of the companies in the text books industry be investigated. The inside trading on the matter does not only stop. Further, that there have been allegations of threats from the industry to other companies demanding that they should stop submitting bids or face death is a cause that needs proper investigation.” said Mtumodzi.