Governance commentator Makhumbo Munthali has said the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development should go beyond issuing a public apology for the flawed procurement and disposal of archaic farm equipment initially purchased using $50 million (about K37 billion) borrowed funds in 2012 and ensure it recover loses.
The published apology is in compliance with an order of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal after the Office of Ombudsman appealed an earlier High Court decision against the Ombudsman’s demand for a public apology.
In the apology dated July 9 2019 published in the press, ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development PS Grey Nyandule-Phiri said the Ministry failed to conduct a proper needs assessment in the beneficiary institutions to guide on the equipment to be bought using the loan from the Government of India.
Reads the apology: “The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development would like to admit to have failed to conduct a proper needs assessment in the beneficiary institutions to guide what equipment should be procured using the loan.
“We were at fault, and sincerely apologise for the irregular procurement and disposal of the equipment.”
In an interview with Nyasa Times, Munthali said: “I have seen this, the natural remedy is for those involved in this costly decision to step aside or be relieved of duties, otherwise without consequences the status quo will continue”
He added: “ The third option would be to recover all loses.”
Ombudsman Martha Chizuma said the case of the entire infamous controversial loan procurement of tractors from India and their subsequent resale to mostly influential politicians and government officials still remains.
“ Time has come for those in public offices to be accountable to the people,” said Chizuma.
In a 48-paged report by the Ombudsman, Chizuma specifically called for prosecution of the officials who were members of internal procurement committee (IPC) and “presided over the sale of the farm machinery and benefitted from the sale should be prosecuted in accordance with the Procurement Act,” plus an apology by three principal secretaries responsible for the ministries involved.
Mzuzu-based Youth and Society (YAS) also wrote Attorney General (AG) Kalekeni Kaphale seeking an explanation on why the two PSs disobeyed a court ruling relating to disposal of tractors bought using public funds.
In the letter to the AG dated July 11 2019, YAS executive director Charles Kajoloweka contended that Kaphale should have been in the forefront pushing for full compliance of the directives.
In February this year, the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal backed the Ombudsman and ruled that the two public officers should issue “a public apology for buying equipment that was archaic and sitting idle and deteriorating, thus unnecessarily indebting Malawians and for the illegal selling of the tractors”.
The farm equipment was purchased using part of the $50 million line of credit from Export-Import Bank of India with the aim of facilitating mechanisation of agriculture in the country.
They included 100 tractors and 144 maize shellers. In total, 177 tractors were bought for distribution to agriculture development divisions (ADDs) to enable poor smallholder farmers graduate to mechanisation by hiring the equipment.
However, only 77 tractors were distributed to ADDs while 100 were sold.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :