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Tuesday, 15 February, 2000, 15:25 GMT
Malawi minister in corruption probe
President Bakili Muluzi
Bakili Muluzi: Acknowledged media's role
The authorities in Malawi are reported to have begun an investigation into corruption allegations against a government minister and two senior officials.

The contract is tainted with illegality

Anti-corruption bureau

The Pan-African news agency (PANA) reported that President Bakili Muluzi had ordered the inquiry into the finance minister, Cassim Chilumpha, the secretary to the Treasury, Respicious Dzanjalimodzi, and chief of staff, Wallace Chawawa.

Correspondents say the three have been the subject of growing speculation since they awarded a contract to a British shipping inspection firm, Intertek - despite the recommendations of a committee which strongly favoured the current holder of the contract: the Swiss company SGS.

'Tainted'

Anti-Corruption Bureau official Alex Namota said the three were being investigated because they flouted lawful demands of openness, transparency and accountability by public officials.

"We found that the public officers conducted themselves in a manner conducive to corrupt practices," he said.

"The contract is tainted with illegality."

President Muluzi has ordered the contract to be annulled and awarded to the Swiss firm.

The finance minister defended the deal, saying he had the power to choose such companies in the interests of the country's economy.

The media took up the issue after the publication of documents which had been used in the awarding of the contract.

President Muluzi acknowledged the role of "our partners in development" - the media - in bringing the scandal to light.

[In May a letter from Malawi's attorney general to Intertek said that the contract with them was cancelled for "procedural reasons beyond the company's control". Intertek say they plan to again submit a bid when the contract is re-tendered.]

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