Malawi PSs publish court sanctioned public apologies over tractorgate after 21-day deadline

Top government officials have published court sanctioned public apologies in national newspapers over tractorgate, after the 21-deadline but it will be known on Tuesday whether this will save them from a jail term for contempt of court.

Nyandule Phiri: Convict of contempt of court

Secretary to Treasury Cliff Chiunda and principal secretary for the ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Grey Nyandule Phiri were convicted two weeks ago for contempt of court for failing to publish the apologies as ordered by the court following the high profile case initiated by Ombudsman Martha Chizuma.

“The ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development and the ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development apologise to the nation for what happened during the previous administration with regard to the irregularities on the purchase of farm equipment with archaic technology and the subsequent disposal of 177 Sonaika tractors which formed part of the consignment that took place in 2013,” says the apology in part.

The apology says the government undertakes to ensure compliance of laws governing loan authorization and public procurement.

A private practice lawyer Justin Dzonzi said when one is convicted of contempt of court in the criminal case, then it automatically follows that criminal sanctions will have to come.

”In this case, one could be fined or imprisoned and obviously that conviction alone is a criminal record and under the Public Service Act, that might be a ground for disciplinary action,” he said.

The case followed the Ombudsman’s application in the wake of a Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal ruling of February 11 2019 for the two public officers to issue a public “apology for buying equipment that was archaic and sitting idle and deteriorating, thus, unnecessarily indebting Malawians and for the illegal selling of the tractors”.

While Nyandule-Phiri published a public apology once on July 12 2019 “for buying equipment that was archaic and sitting idle and deteriorating, thus unnecessarily indebting Malawians and for the illegal selling of the tractors”, Chiunda did not.

The Ombudsman’s directive, upheld by the Supreme Court, was for the apology to run for 21 consecutive days in both daily newspapers and also had to run for 21 consecutive days during prime time on one public and one private radio and television.

Besides the demand for a public apology, in her 48-page report titled The Present Toiling, The Future Overburdened, the Ombudsman also recommended prosecution of the members of the internal procurement committee (IPC) and “those who presided over the sale of the farm machinery and benefited from the sale should be prosecuted in accordance with the Procurement Act”.

In 2017, the High Court favoured the Attorney General whose office, as chief legal adviser to the government, successfully challenged the report and its findings on the basis that the Office of the Ombudsman had overstepped its mandate by ordering government officials to apologise for flawed procurement of tractors and their subsequent sale.

The Attorney General further challenged the authority of the Ombudsman to demand the said apology, describing the same as “unreasonable”. The Attorney General also faulted the Ombudsman for allegedly dictating the course of action on how Parliament should conduct its legislative business after Chizuma recommended that the National Assembly should exercise caution when dealing with similar loan authorisation bills.

But the Ombudsman, through their appointed legal counsel, Modecai Msisha, appealed against the ruling in the Supreme Court of Appeal in 2017.

The farm equipment was purchased using part of the $50 million line of credit from Export-Import Bank of India with the intention to mechanise agriculture in the country.

The farm machinery in question included 100 tractors and 144 maize shellers. In total, 177 tractors were bought for distribution to agriculture development divisions (ADDs) to enable poor smallholder farmers graduate to mechanisation by hiring the equipment. However, only 77 tractors were distributed to ADDs while 100 were sold.

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TOSH
2 years ago

now remaining is abig fish anawo sanali okha

Mateyu salijeni
2 years ago

Name them one by one to shame the devil please ??woba nkhuku bwenzi mwamutchula ndi mkazi wache yemwe

Political Analyst
Political Analyst
2 years ago

THERE IS A TIME WHEN RULE OF LAW IS APPLICABLE TO EVERY CITIZEN EVEN TO THE SO CALLED ” ANA A DAD” OR TOP GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS.THIS IS A TYPICAL EXAMPLE.THUMBS UP TO OMBUDSMAN MARTHA CHAZUMA FOR DEMONSTRATING THE SPIRIT OF PROFESSIONALISM IN THIS MATTER ALL THE WAY.PUBLIC OFFICERS IN KEY POSITIONS SUCH AS RODNEY JOSE, JANE ANSAH ETC MUST BORROW A LEAF FROM THIS LADY. OSATI ZAMADEYAZI IYAYI.

The Patriot
The Patriot
2 years ago

50 Million dollars lost through recless handling of a loan that will be paid back using tax payers sweat?. Now this half hearted apology is NOT enough!!Heads must roll, if this was in China allthe officials involved would have been executed, yes akananyongedwa ma fat cats amaenewa!!HRDC , please take yp this case after the election case. We demand jail terms, forfeiture of assets and s0naming and shaming all the fats cats involved in this saga!!Mwatikwana ma Politicians, your myopia and greed need to be checked once and for all!!!

Njolo mpilu
Njolo mpilu
2 years ago

uysilu. pm kupepesa yet mmacita mwaseli? ku ndende inu, sitikuomvatu

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