Calm, collected and composed, that is how Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) Chief Executive Officer, Foster Mulumbe, appeared before the parliamentay inquiry on Wednesday but his contradictory statements and incosistencies failed to win the hearts of the legislators.
Mulumbe also contradicted the State-trader’s board of directors that he was sent on ‘forced leave’ on his alleged involvement in the dubious purchase of maize from Zambia, saying he voluntary went on leave.
Admarc board chair James Masumbu had confirmed that the recent board meeting had resolved that Mulumbe be sent on leave and that his deputy be in charge to pave way for investigations by the newly instituted Commission of Inquiry by President Peter Mutharika.
Mulumbe, who appeared before the Public Accounts Committee and the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development which are holding public inquiries into the ‘maizegate’, a term referring to alleged fraudulent transactions that Admarc was involved in when purchasing maize from Zambia, said he was not sent on ‘forced leave’ but he applied for holiday which started on Monday, January 16.
But the board insists Mulumbe was “forced” to go on leave after members agreed during the meeting which was attended by Secretary to Treasury Ronald Mangani and Controller for Statutory Corporations.
The board of the State produce trader which made the decision to send Mulumbe on leave included two lawyers, Masumbu and Chancy Gondwe, Inkosi Gomani, politicians Ken Ndanga and Jaffalie Mussa. Other members present were Milward Nyangulu and Umderanji Mabandambanda.
During the session with the legislators, Mulumbe maintained that there is no wrong doing on his part in the maizegate.
Accompanied by deputy CEO Margret Roka and director of finance Henry Kanjere, Mulumbe insisted that that no funds have been remitted to any of the two Zambian suppliers, privately-owned Kaloswe Commuter and Courier Limited and Zambia Cooperative Federation (ZCF).
He said ZCF has not been paid because it has delivered less than 5 000 metric tonnes of maize as the condition of payment of the Letter of Credit (LC) was that ZFC shall be paid after the maize is delivered to Admarc in Lilongwe and upon production of a signed Received Goods Note (RGN).
At times stammering, Mulumbe told the suspicious MPs how Admarc terminated the maize contract with Kaloswe after discovering the company had no export licence, did not have a single grain as it projected and failed to name the source of its maize.
He also appeared to defend Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, George Chaponda, that he had minimal role in the procurement of the maize.
“The role that Malawi government did was to provide documentation to give us guarantee to borrow money from PTA bank based on $345 per tonne multiplied by 4 112 metric tonnes which was delivered,” said Mulumbe.
He said government also negotiated with their counterparts in Zambia for the maize to be exported to Malawi since the time they were sourcing the grain, Zambia had an export ban.
Mulumbe, however, admitted that no advise was sought from Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs before signing the contracts.
On allegations of corruption element that Admarc bought the maize at $345 per metric tonne up from $215 per metric tonne, Mulumbe clarified that the former figure was calculated as delivery from the northeast of Zambia while the later figure was for Lilongwe delivery “which Admarc opted for.”
The inquiry raised eyebrows as the documents submitted indicated that the Office of Director of Public Procurement (ODPP) received a request for a letter of no objection from Admarc on 17 June 2016 and reviewed the same within hours before issuing the no objection letter the following day.
MP Richard Chimwendo Banda said the rushing of the ODPP “looks suspicious” as the office was supposed to handle the matter with “caution” due to the amount of money involved.
“Additionally, there is some twist of which was supposed to start between the request for a letter of no objection and the issuance of the same,” Chimwendo Banda said.
Mulumbe told the inquiry that they signed the deal hurriedly because of the “urgency of the matter where Admarc had to have the maize immediately.”
ODPP chief Paul Limbani Taulo also told the lawmakers that everything was done in a hurry because of the dire need to have the grain.
Mulumbe has since told them that no agent was used in the deal and that Kaloswe has not yet sued Admarc as it has been widely reported.
He said Admarc first wanted to buy maize from Zambian Grain Traders Association, but failed due to the price, and later negotiated with Kaloswe who offered the grain at $345 per tonne but Kaloswe failed to perform on his contract and the deal was signed with ZFC.
At one point MP for Rumphi East clashed with Mulumbe when he told the Admarc boss not to approach the committee with “laser-faire attitude” when he queried him on contradiction of dates.
Mulumbe protested: “This kind of intimidation is not fair.”
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