11 September 2017

Malawi Army Food Deal With Hotel Victoria Smacks of Corruption - Soldiers

Malawi Defence Force (MDF) food supplying deal with Hotel Victoria and Kanjedza Lodge has been faulted for being riddled with corruption.

Hotel Victoria and Kanjedza Lodge, run by the Blantyre-based and politically connected Gani family, have the multibillion kwacha contract with the MDF where it supplies food to soldiers at Cobbe Barracks, Changalume Barracks, Air Wing Zomba base, Blantyre Camp and Mafco in Salima.

The contract dates back to the late president Bingu Mutharika's reign, and the Ganis, according to sources within and outside MDF, have been playing good to the governing political parties to keep the contract running, regardless of serious poor services the soldiers complain about.

One soldier, who spoke on conditions of anonymity, said the Hotel Victoria and Kanjedza Lodge services are not up to the standard.

He said despite offering poor services it was surprising and suspicious that they still manage to get contract renewals because of the political connections.

The soldier alleged top Army officials have also benefited from the contract in several ways, adding it was an open secret that the Ganis have been sponsoring Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) 'Blue Night' parties that are organised to raise funds for the party.

The Blue Nights have recently stirred controversy after civil society organisations (CSO) have demanded that the DPP should refund money some city councils and parastatals donated to the DPP during the latest Blue Night the party organized in Lilongwe.

The CSO are also taking the matter to court.

Another soldier said most of them have complained officially to the administration about the poor services, but nothing changes.

"Strangely, in some situations, the soldiers are given cash by the Hotel Victoria and Kanjedza Lodge to look for food for themselves and the MDF pays the Hotel Victoria and Kanjedza Lodge, what sort of arrangement is that?

"Where money is paid, it is an issue of capacity that they cannot manage to provide food. And why should someone contracted to provide services pay the solders allowances for food and he then gets paid by the MDF? This is outright dubious and something our bosses should have avoided," the soldier said.

The source disclosed that complaints in the past by the soldiers have been directed to former commander generals Henry Odilo, Ignasio Maulana and the current Griffin Supuni, but nothing changes.

The source disclosed that the soldiers going for border operations in Nsanje and Phalombe are the most affected as they are given little food for the whole month and little money to buy fresh foods such as tomatoes, meat and bread.

"For example, at some point each soldier was supposed to receive K1 500 per day but when given money to platoon commander going for these operations, they received K800 each. I experienced this myself," he said.

The soldier said they suffer in silence because if they complain, they are regarded as a pariah and they can be sidelined from many opportunities such as going for peace keeping missions and they cannot be promoted.

"The soldiers are afraid of this and they resort to writing anonymous letters. You know even about the United Nations (UN) peace keeping issue, soldiers have not been receiving as per UN rate and the payments are always delayed. But they expect us to remain silent.

"We see senior MDF officers enjoying free services at Hotel Victoria when the Army has a contract with them. If this does not smell corruption, tell me what it is," the soldier said.

The soldier also alleged that the commander general Supuni had a wedding recently of his son in Lilongwe and catering services were provided for free by the Hotel Victoria.

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