George Saonda, UTM official embroiled in Fake Tender fraud concerning supply of uniform and other gear to Malawi Police Service
Two UTM officials have now spent a couple of days in state custody at Maula prison as pro-UTM Minister together with a senior ex-official for police get linked to a fraudulent police equipment tender.
Two officials from one of the main Tonse Alliance partners, UTM, have spent days in police cell before being transferred to Maula prison over fraud relating to a fake supply tender of police materials.
The two include George Saonda who unsuccessfully stood for UTM parliamentary candidacy for Blantyre Bangwe in 2019 and Arthur Bito, a security director in UTM who is currently having a police bail obtained in 2019 after assaulting a Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) stringer George Banda on February 6 when UTM president Saulos Chilima was presenting his presidential candidacy nomination papers in 2019.
The two were picked, along with two other UTM affiliates, by Malawi Police Services over a consignment of police uniforms that arrived at Kamuzu International Airport around November last year (2022). The two others who have been arrested include a UTM social media team member, Enock Henderson and another not yet identified.
Investigations by Shire Times reveal that the fake procurement scandal involves several others including a sitting Cabinet Minister and former Malawi Police Service senior officer who collaborated in the design and execution of the tender deal fraud that has left a US-based business woman a victim in agony.
UTM spokesperson, Felix Njawala, has quickly said the party empathizes with its arrested members and that its members have been visiting them. Another UTM member who is currently posing as a questionable activist, Bon Kalindo, is reportedly among those that had visited the two UTM officials soon after their arrest.
At stake is importation of K4.6 billion police uniforms one Malawian businesswoman based in the United States of America is said to have imported after allegedly paying K50 million to a woman who is said to have been introduced to Saonda by a cabinet minister.
Information indicate that the woman paid K6 million to get the fake documents that were being purported to have come from the Malawi Police Service to supply uniforms and assorted combat gear.
The allegations are that after they pocketed the funds, the nabbed suspects continued to pose as senior officials from Area 30 until the consignment arrived at Kamuzu International Airport where the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) asked for customs clearance.
The importer, who is the supplier then called the contact persons who could not be reached until the authorities at the Airport assisted with contacts for police headquarters in Area 30. Upon contacting the Area 30, the supplier ended up being shocked when she was told that the Malawi Police Service does not know of any such tender.
It then transpired that the now arrested suspects were using a phoned belonging to a UTM social media member who is reportedly a student from DMI University in Mangochi when posing as officers from Area 30 in their communication with the purported supplier.
When the student was picked for questioning, he told the Police that the UTM official was in a company of another social media team member, whom reports have identified as Enock Henderson. A trace of the call to the DMI student led to the names, one of which is married to a Police officer.
Another source said one of the UTM officials is close to a serving cabinet minister who had introduced the woman to him, and the deal was done with a blessing of a senior police official who supplied samples of police uniforms.
“The Minister, this police chief and even one of senior officials at parliament could be involved. That is why this matter is complicated, the Police can’t tell you anything despite keeping the two for days,” a privy source has indicated.
During his State-of-the-Nation (SONA) address on Friday, President Lazarus Chakwera said his administration would not tolerate this scandal, further indicating that in pursuit of his administration’s policy he had ordered all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to be soliciting uniform supplies within Malawi.