Fake fertilizer scandal: Optichem, Simama implicated

Preliminary investigations into a fertilizer subsidy scandal in which police have impounded a vehicle carrying 600 bags filled with sand are implicating Optichem,  Simama transport and Smallholder Farmers Fertilizer Revolving Fund of Malawi (SFFRFM) .

Police in Malawi’s southern district of Mangochi on Friday evening impounded a truck registration number KA 5310 belonging to Simama Transport after 600 hundred bags of subsidized fertilizers it carried were found filled with sand.

Officer in charge for Mangochi police station, senior assistant commissioner Ephraim Chipojola, said the incident happened on Friday evening when one of the bags burst open as people were offloading the subsidised fertilizer at Katuli Admarc depot.

Four people including a driver were arrested in connection with the issue.

Stocks fertiliser: Some are putting sand

The inquiry into the issue started at on Sunday at SFFRFM offices in Chirimba Township where representatives from Simama, Bvumbwe Research Station, Optichem, Police, SFFRFM, and the suspects were giving their side of the story.

Inside sources close to the ongoing investigation confided to Nyasa Times on Sunday  that the driver of the truck, Aubrey Limbanga, said the fertilizer he carried was not from the warehouse of SFFRFM but it was taken from one of the Optichem’s trucks.

It has also been revealed that the sand which was found in 114 bags of the total 600 bags that was in the truck is similar to the sand which the supplier of the fertilizers Optichem uses in production of fertilizers.

The sources say in the course of investigation, Optichem official have confirmed that the sand and the sacks are theirs but still disown the ropes which were used to stitch up the sacks.

This has forced the inquiry team to proceed to Optichem offices to establish whether the mix might as a result of a mechanical fault during production or the packaging of the fertilizers.

Optichem Productions Manager, Samuel Synoden, defended his company, saying  they do not produce fertilizer mixed with sand

“We believe something sinister happened along the way from Blantyre to Mangochi,” said Synoden.

Meanwhile researchers from Bvumbwe Research Station have collected the samples from the fake fertilizers for verification and are expected to come up with a report.

It is expected that those arrested in connection with scandal will be kept at Blantyre Police until the investigations are over.

Prosecution

A legal expert who spoke to Nyasa Times called for authorities to prosecute the culprits.

“There  are  usually rackets, its usually a team that includes people at Admarc and some very senior, even the the police sometimes are part of rackets that abuse subsidy inputs. They must simply be prosecuted after thorough investigation,” said a lawyer who asked his identity to be concealed.

He called on the media to persistently follow the issues “ until something is done otherwise such stories sadly fade away and everyone forgets about them.”

The lawyer gave an example of the housing scam, which he said  is almost a forgotten thing and  the  K400m fraud involving the police .

“There are lots of such stories of abuse of public resoruces that die silent from public knowledge,” he said.

Adding:  “Whether Optichem if they are the ones responsible or if its Simama, the contracts he has been awarded must be rescinded because that’s serious fraud.”

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