Heated arguments ensued between Consumers Association of Malawi (CAMA) and the joint-committee of Parliament currently probing the procurement of maize from Zambia by the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) when committee members delved their questions on speculations.
CAMA appeared before the committee on Monday following his organisation’s report released last week that said that there was no shady dealing in the procurement of maize from Zambia but faulted Minister of Agriculture George Chaponda for interfering with procurement of maize locally currently being sold at K12,500.
During the meeting while CAMA’s Executive Director, John Kapito confirmed to have not dwelled much on the technicalities of the procurement processes involved, stood by his organization’s findings that state that no money was paid for any maize that was imported from Zambia and that less than 5,000 metric tons of maize has so far been delivered to Malawi.
The meeting however heated up when vice-chairperson of Public Accounts Committee, Kamlepo Kalua and other members started speculating on the possibility of Chaponda and other government officials being involved in fraud and that they interfered with the procurement of maize from Zambia.
Kapito and his team stood their ground and refused to accept that their study was narrow as it did not address some of the technical procurement issues, arguing “I cannot comment on speculation, and as far as our study findings are concerned, no money was paid to Zambia and we stood by that.”
Asked if he would think of possible colluding and corruption in the whole process of maize procurement from Zambia, Kapito insisted on refusing to assert to speculations but accepted the oversight of pointed out technicalities in the study.
“I would urge this committee to be proactive and not dwell much on speculation. I don’t want to think or made to think on something I don’t have evidence on. I would want to present to you facts with evidence and not speculations. If anybody has proof that money exchanged hands, let them disapprove our findings. It is the duty of this committee to ensure that Admarc is cushioned so that the poor is not overburdened with high prices,” he said.
On justifiability of current maize price of K12,500, Kapito questioned the role Parliamentary committees on agriculture and public accounts played to ensure that the maize bought by Admarc, which a commercial entity, was accessible and affordable to the poor Malawians.
“It known fact that the maize prices are high but what has the committee done to ensure that such huge duty of procuring maize is not only left in the hands of Admarc or executive branch of government? Parliament should be on forefront leading such procurements to ensure that poor Malawians are not punished,” added Kapito.
Chairperson of the joint-committee, Joseph Chidanti-Malunga hailed CAMA for availing itself before the committee and agreed on the different objective CAMA looked into its study than of those of the committee which boarder on possible fraud and corruption.
The committee also hailed CAMA on its findings on local maize purchases, saying it was detailed and provided insight as to how government officials including Chaponda interfered with the procurement process.
Local Maize Purchase
CAMA’s investigative study revealed that Chaponda lied to the nation that his ministry and him as a minister did not interfere or got involved in any procurement arrangements of maize in the country and yet the ministry was able to obtain a letter of no-objection from the Office of the Director of Public Procurement (ODPP) when it is not a procuring entity of maize for Admarc.
The investigation further revealed that ministry of agriculture, with Chaponda’s blessings, tried to influence Admarc to purchase maize from local suppliers at exorbitant prices without consideration of its impact on the consumers’ affordability to buy such maize.
According to documents which Nyasa Times has sourced, Chaponda and a team in his ministry obtained no-objection from ODPP and compiled a list of local maize suppliers whose quoted prices were exorbitantly high as compared to the current Admarc’s market selling price per kilogram.
It has been revealed that On October 22nd, 2016 the ministry of agriculture through Bright Kumwembe wrote Admarc to adopt the no-objection letter which actually was meant for Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR).
The letter had a long list of Malawian traders who had not gone through Admarc’s procurement process, and had different quantities and prices of maize that were generally above the K250 cap per kilogram authorized by Treasury.
Despite Chaponda’s influence on Admarc to adopt the list of the suppliers and the no-objection letter, the grain marketer rejected to be smeared in the mud of potential fraud and corruption.
And on October 28th, 2016 now suspended Admarc Chief Executive Officer, Foster Mulumbe wrote the ministry refusing to adopt the imposed letter of no-objection arguing it would be irregular to adopt such letter meant for SGR.
International Maize Purchase
According to CAMA’s investigation study, two Zambian suppliers namely Kaloswe Commuter and Courier Limited and Zambia Cooperative Federation Limited (ZCF) failed to supply Malawi with maize as stipulated in their contracts. ZCF only managed to supply less than 5,000 metric tons.
CAMA noted that Kaloswe Commuter and Courier Limited contract with Admarc was terminated and that there was no activity from both sides.
“Our investigation study revealed that no funds have been remitted so far to any of the two suppliers and that the ZCF request for payment has not been effected. It has been observed that both ZCF and Kaloswe contracts need to be terminated as they both failed to meet the requirements of their contractual obligations.”
No Payment Made
The Cama report and letters which Nyasa Times has sourced from Reserve Bank, ZCF and Admarc, confirm that no money out of the US$34.5 million which the grain marketer was expected to pay for 100,000 metric ton of maize ZCF was expected to supply to Malawi has not been paid.
According to contractual agreement between Admarc and ZCF, payment was to be made for tranches of 10,000 metric tons upon presentation of Loading Order, Commercial Invoice and Goods Received Note. However ZCF has only managed to supply 1,530.508 metric ton of maize below the requirement.
The company is currently seeking payment of the supplied maize amounting to US$528,025.26 which the Reserve Bank of Malawi has refused to authorize considering that the supplied maize did not meet the required amount to trigger payment as stipulated in the contract.
Meanwhile, both commission of inquiry set by President Peter Mutharika and the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) have started investigating the saga amid confirmed reports that Admarc’s Chief Executive Officer, Foster Mulumbe has been sent on forced leave until the matter is concluded.
Mulumbe and other government officials including Minister George Chaponda are accused of pocketing about K9 billion out of the deal.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :