Maize scam deepens

Sat, 31 Dec 2016 12:53:38 +0000

THE $34.5 million deals involving the supply of 100, 000 metric tonnes of the maize grain to Malawi by the Zambia Co-operative Federation (ZCF) is a matrix that needs thorough investigation.

Demands by the Malawi’s Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development for an inquiry into the contractual issues involving ZCF and that country’s grain-marketer, Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (ADMARC) over the maize deal is indicative of suspicion of corruption in the procurement process.

Members of Parliament in Malawi have a constitutional onus to provide checks and balances on State institutions by virtue of being elected representatives of the people of Malawi.

And Malawi, just like many countries in the Southern African region, is grappling with critical food shortages due to the devastating climatic effects of the El Nino that hit the region last farming season.

Therefore, it is grossly unthinkable that ADMARC, which apparently is equivalent to the Food Reserve Agency (FRA), would commit the Government of Malawi to purchasing the maize grain at an overpriced rate of US$336 per tonne when the international standard rate is at US$152 per tonne.

It is understandable why Malawians are pressuring their Government for explanations why it decided to procure maize from the ZCF at an exorbitant price of USD 336 per tonne which was US$184 more expensive than the international rate.

According to ZCF the price of the maize grain is inclusive of transportation, documentation and letter of credit. What has the Zambian Government done to allay suspicions of corruption in this maize saga?

A perusal of documentation shows that ADMARC initially entered into a contract with a privately owned company Kaloswe Commuters for the sale and export of maize to that country despite knowing so well that Government imposed a ban on the export of maize.

How did Kaloswe get clearance to supply maize to Malawi knowing that the ban on the export of maize is still in force? Who are the individuals behind Kaloswe Commuters? Why did Kaloswe Commuters instruct ADMARC to prepare a letter of credit to the tune of $34.5 million in the name of ZCF? At what point in this triangular transaction did ZCF get on board?

Much as the Malawians are more concerned with the overpricing of the commodity, that is just one side of this irksome transaction, and they are justified in holding their Government to account.

On the other hand, there is need for a thorough probe into the manner the whole transaction was executed?

The cancellations and suspicious manner in the way the transaction was mooted among the three key players, ADMARC, Kaloswe and ZCF, is fraught with lots of irregularities and stinks of corruption. Some government officials from both countries appear to have set themselves to benefit from the government-to-government controversial maize deal.

What is surprising is that relevant investigative wings in Zambia seem not to have shown keen interest in the maize scandal that must have put some officials at ZCF and Ministry of Agriculture under probe by now.

The need for transparency on how these government-to-government export of maize deals to our neighbouring countries are arrived at is paramount to allay suspicion of corruption.


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