Bogus fertilizer transaction scam is wake up call for Chakwera to scrutinize deep-rooted corruption in government agencies

In applauding President Lazarus Chakwera for his swift and decisive action on the Ministry of Agriculture following reports of a bogus fertiliser transaction, All-African Conference of Churches (AACC) Economic, Justice and Accountability Ambassador in Malawi, Rev. Baxton Maulidi says this as a wake-up call for the President to scrutinise what is happening within Ministries and Departments in his government.
In an interview with Nyasa Times, Rev. Maulidi — who is also Deputy General Secretary of Blantyre Synod — lauded the President for being decisive in removing the Minister of Agriculture, Lobin Lowe and his deputy Madalitso Kambauwa Wilima from the Cabinet after it was established that under Lowe’s watch, government machinery paid about US$725,000 in agency fees to some unscrupulous UK company, before getting credible evidence of the firm’s capacity to supply fertiliser to Malawi.

Rev. Buxton Maulidi
Maulidi described the incident as a wake-up call as this could just be a reflection of deep-rooted corruption happening in a number of government agencies.
The Economic Justice and Accountability Ambassador further advised Chakwera “to conduct due diligence on the people he drafts into his Cabinet and hire only those with a track record”.
He expressed the hope of seeing the President “engaging people with integrity in the Cabinet he has promised to announce soon”.
Rev. Maulidi spoke of the need for Cabinet Ministers to utilise the technocrats in their ministries to ensure that laid down procedures are followed.
“It is clear that this procurement was done without following laid down procedures,” he said, “There was need to involve the Public Procurement and Disposal of Asset Authority (PPDA), the Government Contracting Unit and the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to properly vet as required by law.
“But, according to the President’s speech, all these arms were not engaged,” said Maulidi while further asking Treasury to also explain as to why it allowed such huge sums of money to be released without following the laid down procedures.
In his address to the nation on Tuesday, Chakwera dropped Lowe and Wilima from Cabinet for what he termed a litany of bad decisions that smack incompetence and gross negligence.
The President has since appointed Sam Kawale as Minister of Agriculture and bestowed upon him the responsibility of rescuing this year’s Affordable Input Program (AIP) by ensuring the timely delivery of fertiliser for the upcoming planting season.
Maulidi joins Consumer Association of Malawi (CAMA), Executive Director, John Kapito who also issued a statement on Thursday, wondering that how the transaction went through when Malawi has a number of financial controls and independent institutions that would have detected the illegal financial transaction.
Kapito maintained that it is wrong to assume and conclude that these illegal transactions started and ended at the Ministry of Agriculture alone without the knowledge of the State President and the other financial institutions considering the magnitude and importance of the program.
“Much as the President might wish to play ignorance and — if indeed the State President was not briefed or aware about this transaction — then we should be worried that Malawi is a fertile ground for illicit financial transactions.
“The million dollar question which the State President failed to address is how did the Minister and his delegation travel to the United Kingdom without his knowledge and clearance in Malawi? A Cabinet Minister cannot travel outside the country without being cleared by the State President.
“The President himself needs a lot of explaining about his role regarding the identification of the supplier and under whose instructions did Treasury and Reserve Bank facilitate the transfer of such huge sums of money to a foreign supplier and bank.
“This is beyond the capacity of the Ministry of Agriculture and therefore both the President, Treasury and Reserve Bank cannot distance themselves from these transactions.”
Kapito expects the law enforcement agencies to carry an independent investigation and hold all the actors accountable.

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