Agriculture Development and Marketing Corporation (ADMARC) officials in Karonga are pocketing thousands of kwacha in bribes to sell out maize to vendors at the expense of deserving Malawians who are spending days without help, Nyasa Times can reveal.
A weeklong investigation we’ve carried out shows that Malawians in need – including the elderly and people with disabilities – are spending up to four days without help while unscrupulous vendors hardly spend a day without getting the officials’ VIP attention.
According to our findings, the officials are using delaying tactics – serving few deserving customers over magnitude of time – so that they can serve vendors after official closing time – 4:30pm.
“I have been coming here for four consecutive days without getting help. They always say it is time up when my turn nears,” Brenda Mwangonde, 45, told Nyasa Times.
Another customer Grace Kapesa said: “This is how we are treated when we come to buy maize at this depot. We have been here for almost four days without buying maize as the officers deliberately sell to us for a few hours beginning from 11: 00 am.”
The corporation in Karonga is supposed to sell one hundred bags of maize per day but by 4:30 pm only about fifty six bags are sold, and the rest after close of official time.
The rest of the bags, we have learnt, are sold to vendors who start arriving at the main unit in Karonga at dusk.
On Friday night, Nyasa Times caught red-handed Karonga ADMARC marketing officer Eliza Ngwira in discussions with about ten vendors – mostly men – at around 8: 00 pm.
Ironically, the transactions were being held in the dark – Karonga suffered a blackout during the night.
Ngwira admitted to Nyasa Times that it was “wrong” for her to engage in the transactions at the time but was quick to say that it was “due to the large number of customers they received during normal working hours” that forced them “to extend.”
Said Ngwira: “Of course we are not mandated to stop selling after 3:00pm but today we had a lot of customers that already paid for the maize.”
Karonga ADMARC manager a W.D Kumbanira said in an interview that the “rules of the game do not allow customers to take home receipts after they have paid.”
But our assessment indicated Ngwira’s response was only a scapegoat since while “the rules of the game” provide that customers should buy the recommended 20 kilograms per person the vendors were getting 50 kilograms.
Our findings further indicate that the officials are getting as much as K2 000 per bag to engage in the shady deals.
While they get the maize at K2 200 from ADMARC, the vendors sell the same quantity at K3 700 on the black market making a whooping profit of K 4 000 per bag.
This is beating the purpose of selling the maize which is to reach out to vulnerable citizens in the wake of a food shortage expected to hit the country this year.
Minister of Agriculture, Water and Irrigation Allan Chiyembekeza, who visited Karonga ADMARC last Wednesday, admitted that there were “a lot of malpractices involved” in the sale of the maize.
He attributed the setback to “overstaying of officers at one station” and revealed there would be transfers soon.”
Chiyembekeza also said that arrangements were being made so that the number of bags being sold per day should be scaled to 300 from the present 100.—Additional reporting by Pius Nyondo, Nyasa TimesFollow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :