Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda has been accused by Malawi’s flagship newspaper, The Daily Times of giving contradictory statements to defend himself from any wrongdoing in the misprocurement of maize from Zambia.
Chaponda said his involvement was minimal as the main buyer of the maize was the Agriculture Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) and not his ministry.
The paper has however put Chaponda on spotlight after he claimed he went to Zambia on two occasion to discuss the maize deal when he led a three man delegation on 8th May, 2016 and then on 11th December, 2016, as a special Envoy of the President Peter Mutharika to meet Zambian leader Edgar Lungu.
But the newspaper i its lead sgtory report titled ‘Chaponda lied onmaize deal’, says the minister might have been to Zambia “more than twice”.
The paper noted that the dates Chaponda mentions “contradicts” with what President Mutharika said on October 21, 2016 at a news conference upon returning to UN summit.
The President is quoted saying on October 21 that Chaponda was in Zambia signing maize purchase deal with President Lungu.
The Daily Times said when it contacted Chaponda to clarify on that, he raged with anger, saying the press statement “simple language” was enough comment on the matter .
Chaponda’s statement comes amid calls from civil society organisation (CSOs) for him and Admarc chief executive officer Foster Mulumbe to resign and pave the way for investigations into the issue.
The minister has flatly refused to resign, denying any wrong doing.
But observers argue that where there is ministerial responsibility, the accountable minister is expected to take the blame and ultimately resign for waste, corruption or any other misbehaviour.
“This means that if waste, corruption, or any other misbehaviour is found to have occurred within a ministry, the minister is responsible even if the minister had no knowledge of the actions. A minister is ultimately responsible for all actions by a ministry because, even without knowledge of an infraction by subordinates, the minister approved the hiring and continued employment of those civil servants ( in this case parastatals). If misdeeds are found to have occurred in a ministry, the minister is expected to resign.
“It is also possible for a minister to face criminal charges for malfeasance under their watch. Plain and simple. Lack of knowledge is not an excuse, plain and simple,” said a governance observer.