Ministrer of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Joseph Mwanamvekha is at the centre of the the 2017/18 Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) mess which has been stopped by a court order and threatens millions of Malawians from being food insecure in the next growing season.
The High Court in Blantyre has halted any operations relating to the programme pending a judicial review.
The court’s decision follows an interim order for stay that Transglobe Produce Exports Limited obtained after it was dropped from participating in the programme. The order has been exteded to this Friday when an iter-partes hearing on the matter will take place before presideing judge Kenyatta Nyirenda.
Ministry’s laxity to act on Transglobe Produce Export’s request to be considered in the FISP suppliers list after being cleared by the High Court, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and Attorney General, government’s principal legal adviser has reportedly caused the mess.
The Ministry of Agriculture decided to leave out Transglobe in this year’s Fisp programme because one of its directors Rashid Tayub is answering corruption charges together with former Minister of Agriculture George Chaponda over the maize procurement saga in Zambia.
But instead of acting on the legal recommendations, Mwanamvenkha ignored the advice and this resulted in Transglobe applying to the High Court for an interim injunction to stop the implementation of the Fisp programme.
Documents in Nyasa Times possession indicate that Transglobe withdrew a judicial review case following consent between the state and Transglobe that the Ministry of agriculture was going to consider the company in participating in the Fisp tender.
“It is further ordered and directed that the Applicant’s (Transglobe) bid or bids for the award of contract under the Fisp programme be considered by the procuring entity, The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development in the same manner that the procuring entity would consider any other bid or bids by any other bidder,” reads the High Court order consent endorsed by Transglobe lawyer Lusungu Gondwe and Attorney General Charles Mhango dated 22 September 2017.
ACB Director Lucas Kondowe also cleared Transglobe through a letter to Smallholder Farmers Fertiliser Revolving Fund of Malawi (SFRFM) Chief Executive Officer dated 15th September 2017.
“The Bureau wishes to advise you that you may proceed with the procurement as long as you comply with all other formalities under the Public Procurement Act and Regulations,” reads the letter in part.
Director of Public Procurement Paul Taulo also cleared Transglobe through a letter to SFRRM CEO dated 6th October 2017.
“As regards the matter relating to Transglobe Produce Export Limited, we confirm that we have received clearance from relevant legal authorities. A ‘No Objection’ has been granted for you to award the contract to Transglobe Produce Exports Limited as approved by your IPC,” reads the letter in part.
Transglobe lawyer Lusungu Gondwe also wrote Mwanamvekha twice on 2 and 17 October 2017 requesting his office to issue a ‘No Objection’ to SFFRM to enable Transglobe participates in the tender.
“Please be advised that the ACB has cleared our client. Further, the Office of the Honourable attorney General has approved our Client’s participation in FISP. The High Court of Malawi too has held that our Client should be at liberty to participate in Fisp like any other bidder. In short, there are n objections to our Client’s participation in Fisp,” reads the letter dated 2 October 2017.
“Take notice that our Client has no intention to delay the procurement process but will certainly take the most drastic action to protect its interests,” adds the letter.
Seeing that there was no response or action from Mwanamvekha, Gondwe wrote the minister again on 17th October 2017 on the same matter.
“If there is no written notification of award of contract to our client or in the unlikely event that you omit to authorize the same by 12 noon on Wednesday October 18, 2017, our client shall apply to the courts for an injunction restraining the implementation of Fisp without further reference to you whatsoever,” reads the letter in part.
If the Attorney General, who is government’s principal legal adviser gave his legal opinion on the matter, why did the ministry ignore such advice. But I can see politics at play here,” said a government official who did not want t be named.
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