Agriculture expert Leonard Chimwaza has hailed President Dr. Lazarus Chakwera for taking decisive steps to address logistical glitches that could have threated the implementation of the 2022-2023 Affordable Input Programme (AIP).
Chimwaza, who is also the Acting Head of Programmes at the Africa Institute for Corporate Citizenship (AICC), said the bold decision Chakwera has taken on the matter has brought a sigh of relief to beneficiary farmers who, until the national address, lost hope on the programme.
The Malawi leader on Tuesday announced the sacking of his Minister of Agriculture Lobin Lowe and Deputy Minister Madalitso Kambauwa-Wirima, over what he described as incompetence.
He also announced tough decisions his government has had to make to rescue the programme from total failure.
Apparently, President Chakwera is not amused that Lowe and his team did not comply with his directive to finalize logistical and procurement arrangements for AIP by September 2022 or face the chop.
With a few days left before the start of rainy season in some part of Malawi, especially in the Southern Region, there has been no sign of preparedness among officials at the Ministry of Agriculture to purchase the inputs despite being allocated K109 billion for the programme.
Instead, Lowe and his team engaged a British company as an agent to secure fertilizer from a manufacturer without conducting the necessary financial, business, anti-money laundering and legal due diligence to ensure the company’s credibility and capacity.
The deal led to the loss of K750 million of taxpayers money. In his address on Tuesday evening, Chakwera said there are serious problems in the agricultural sector that need to be fixed as a matter of urgency.
“In the face of which the food security of the country has been left in grave jeopardy. Even though there is still time to resolve the problems, there is simply no way this can be done by the same careless leadership that has failed to fulfil its mandate over the sector, a sector that is the backbone of our economy and the bread basket of millions of Malawians. Additionally, our internal inquiries into the causes of this failure have revealed a disturbing litany of bad decisions that smack of incompetence and gross negligence,” said the President.
He added: *“To begin with, the findings reveal that the Ministry, through Smallholder Farmers Fertilizer Revolving Fund. Thirdly, at the request of the company, Smallholder Farmers Fertilizer Revolving Fund made the two payments into two separate accounts in two different countries outside the United Kingdom, and yet they proceeded to effect this suspicious method of payment without question.
“Fourthly, both the contract with and payment to the company were done without following proper procurement procedures, as neither the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA), nor the Government Contracting Unity (GCU), nor the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) were engaged to properly vet the process as required by law.”
He said he has since instructed his new Minister of Agriculture, Sam Dalitso Kawale, to facilitate speedy arrangements for the delivery and distribution of these AIP consignments. He also stressed the need for a review of the competency of those who run public agricultural institutions, including those at ADMARC, at Smallholder Farmers Fertilizer Revolving Fund, at Greenbelt Authority, and at National Food Reserve Agency.
Chakwera said his administration has already identified levels of incompetence, negligence, and corruption at the mentioned institutions and that his administration is already in the course of rooting out.
In his reaction to these announcements, Chimwaza said the actions Chakwera has taken will help the country avert food crisis that would have come as a result of failure by the Ministry of Agriculture to procure the inputs.
The agriculture expert asked Malawians to rally behind the President to ensure he fulfils what he promised in the run-up to the Fresh Presidential Election on June 23 2020.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :