Many Malawians have taken to social media to ask President Chakwera’s government to open an investigation into the controversial sale of a presidential jet, the Dassault Falcon 900EX, which many say was never sold but has been given clandestinely to foreigners who exploit it to offset a debt we owe them.
Reacting to a main article “I’m ready for the probe-JB jet”, which appeared in The Nation on Wednesday September 22, 2021, Gomonda David wrote on Facebook that it is only in Malawi that the gangsters will unite for protect (JB) and continue to plunder state resources.
Flytone Simukoko said the DPP (government) has failed to prosecute her and that he does not believe the Tonse government, of which she is a part, will make any progress. Christopher Magombo has stated that unless JB is arrested he will not trust this government of Tonse.
Although the former president claimed the plane was sold in 2013, she continued to charter and use the plane whenever she was on official travel. The government bought the presidential jet in 2009 under former president, the late Bingu wa Mutharika.
The Nation reported that Banda says she is not intimidated by the prospect of an investigation into her administration’s decision to sell the presidential plane as proposed by Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
PAC wishes to conduct a public inquiry into the matter and has since written to the Ministry of Finance and the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) to inquire about the events surrounding the transaction.
PAC chairman Shadreck Namalomba said on Monday that the Treasury had responded to their request, saying it was not involved in the transaction.
Banda said everyone involved in the transaction is “alive and well” to give more details on the deal. She said those public officials included former OPC (Administration) chief secretary Clement Chinthu Phiri and former government chief secretaries – now renamed secretary to the president and cabinet – Bright Msaka and Hawa Ndilowe.
The Banda administration argued at the time that the plane was a burden on the economy with annual running costs estimated at over K200 million.
In March 2014, contrary to previous claims that the proceeds from the sale of the aircraft had been used for corn purchases, former Finance Minister Maxwell Mkwezalamba said the $ 15 million (around $ 6.3 billion de K) were not entered in the Government of Malawi’s consolidated account.
He said that instead, the attorney general facilitated the transfer of funds from Bohnox Enterprises, which bought the jet, to Paramount Group, its parent company. Mkwezalamba said the government owed Paramount Group $ 19.2 million (about K 8.2 billion) for military equipment purchased some time ago.
He said the government’s cash flow could not meet the demand for payment for the equipment.
Namalomba said on Monday that the country was still in the dark over the sale of the plane; hence the need for a public inquiry to establish what really happened.
He said: “Malawians should know if the presidential plane was eliminated in good faith, if there was any corruption or if some people took unfair advantage of the sale of the plane.
“If in the end some people took advantage of it, then they have to pay back the money. If criminal merit is taken into consideration, then they should be prosecuted. This jet was a national asset.”
Namalomba further said that PAC is already behind on the investigation into the presidential plane and that as soon as the OPC gives a response, the public investigation will begin.
In 2009, the administration of Bingu wa Mutharika purchased the presidential plane at an estimated cost of K 16 billion ($ 22 million), which was then sold under the administration of Banda. It was reported that part of the proceeds was used to purchase corn.
State House during Banda’s time released a statement claiming that the plane was smuggled was not true.
“It should be remembered that Dr Joyce Banda’s administration operates a transparent and open door policy to facilitate access to any information that members of the general public, including the media, may wish to have about their government.
“Our view is that the claims that the presidential plane was never sold are motivated by a deliberate, ill-intentioned and calculated gimmick to create a false suggestion that President Joyce Banda is breaking her word and must not be trustworthy; is involved in clandestine activities using government property and, therefore, is not worthy of the public’s trust, and is irresponsible and should not be relied upon.
“With Tripartite Election Day looming, we are convinced that the intention of those who peddle these lies is to mislead the public and reduce their interest in Dr Joyce Banda in the hope that at their In turn, his opponents will get the political advantages they fail to achieve through an open and intelligent campaign, “the statement read.
The press release indicates that the Bingu administration purchased the Dassault Falcon 900EX aircraft for the President of the Republic in late 2009 in Florida, United States of America. The aircraft was acquired using a single source method of supply because that administration considered that “the circumstances surrounding the purchase of a presidential jet are sensitive in nature and eligible for special treatment.”
He said certain challenges were authorized by this administration to unnecessarily increase the costs of managing and operating the aircraft, which included the use of hired pilots instead of using trained crew members, the purchase did not include spare parts and front line equipment that are normally used. by engineers and technicians as well as aircraft documentation, and the lack of a hanger to accommodate the aircraft for storage, maintenance and records.
“By the time Dr Joyce Banda took office, the country’s economy was in turmoil and yet the government had to continue spending on some fixed and direct operating costs associated with the management and operation of the business. These included the costs of ongoing maintenance of the aircraft. program (CAMP), maintenance service program (MSP) for the engines, auxiliary power unit (APU), insurance premiums, maps and software navigation and pilot simulator training.
“It should be noted that from the time the aircraft was purchased in 2009 until April 2012, when Dr Joyce Banda took over from the late Professor Bingu wa Mutharika, around K 1 billion (then) had been spent on the aircraft in fixed and direct operating costs.And in the 2012/2013 budget, the government spent nearly K200 million on maintenance programs that were mandatory to maintain the quality of the aircraft. government also risked paying huge fines for not flying the plane according to the manufacturer’s specifications.
“To avoid fines, the aircraft’s battery and auxiliary power unit operated every 10 days, the engines every 30 days, and the aircraft had to fly once every three months for at least 30 to 45 minutes. This involved hiring foreign pilots to fly the plane which cost over 22,000 euros at the time.
“When President Joyce Banda took the reins of power, she said that although the government has the right to own a presidential jet, the economic situation she inherited was not conducive to justifying the high mandatory maintenance costs. and the overhead costs associated with owning the jet. Therefore, the aircraft had to be eliminated.
“To demonstrate that the administration of Dr Joyce Banda did not decide to dispose of the plane maliciously, the government considered the possibility of placing the plane under a management contract, but this also proved to be little cautious in terms of spending Control measures that the government is still implementing to this day.
“It should be noted that, as part of a tendering process, four companies based in South Africa, namely ExecuJet Aviation Group, Flight Logics SA (Pty) Ltd, Fortune Air and Absolute Aviation Solution have submitted offers.
“ExecuJet Aviation Group emerged as the successful bidder and charged an annual management fee of US $ 676,731.00 (approximately K 204 million). fixed costs.
“Considering the fact that under the management contract, huge sums of money would still have to be spent each year in the form of management fees and other maintenance expenses, whether the aircraft is profitable or not , the government made the decision to put the aircraft up for sale outright, ”the statement said at the time.