‘Dirty’ assets up for grabs
Government is set to put on sale about 50 vehicles it confiscated from drivers who contravened provisions in the Forestry Act.
Most of these vehicles are those which were used in illegally transporting forestry products such as charcoal and hardwood.
Director of Public Prosecutions Steven Kayuni has confirmed the development, saying government will also be retendering property confiscated from Cashgate convicts Oswald Lutepo and others after the initial attempt to sell them failed months ago.
Kayuni said the processes to retender the property are at advanced stage in liaison with the Secretary to Treasury.
“PPDA [Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority] gave us a go-ahead after we reported what transpired during the last bidding process of the properties.
“We are in the process of retendering them and everything is on course. Remember that the Secretary to Treasury is the one premised by the Public Finance Management Act as custodian of all government properties. We only act on his behalf when courts order properties to go bona vacantia (to the State),” Kayuni said.
He also stressed timely disposal of the property before they significantly lose their value but maintained that procedures have to be followed.
Kayuni said government initially struggled to sell property it confiscated from the Cashgate convicts because their value depreciated due to long period of idling.
“We are alive to the fact that these processes affect property’s status as there is dissipation in value. That notwithstanding we are duty-bound to follow the laid-down legal processes for disposal and deposits into the confiscation fund for the sole benefit of the people of Malawi,” he said.
On the disposing of vehicles authorities confiscated from drivers illegally transporting forestry products, Ministry of Natural Resources and Climate Change spokesperson Frank Nkondetseni said that is provided for in the Forestry Act which was amended in 2020.
Nkondetseni said government is at liberty to either be using the vehicles or disposing of them.
He added that the provision is aimed at tightening security of forestry products, saying businesspeople use big vehicles to illegally transport the products.
“They must have found new ways of transporting charcoal and other forestry products because we still see charcoal in our cities and towns but such vehicles are no longer being used as much as they were in the past because people are now afraid of losing their vehicles,” Nkondetseni said.
Kayuni also indicated that at least three vehicles that were confiscated are off the hook after their owners successfully challenged their involvement in the illicit trade at the High Court.
In January this year, government put on auction various properties belonging to Cashgate convicts Lutepo, the late Theresa Senzani and Leonard Kalonga valued at around K1.4 billion.
Among others, Lutepo’s property included a house, a factory in Blantyre and K50 million bail bond, all valued at K600 million.
Senzani restituted a house worth K340 million while Kalonga’s property was valued at K500 million.
Governance commentator Victor Chipofya has since called for transparency and accountability in the disposal of such property, proposing that government has to appoint an independent entity to facilitate the sales.
“Nobody knows why those items have depreciated. If you talk about motor vehicles, for example, they could be vandalised. Who is the insurer to ensure that that those things are being protected?” Chipofya queried.