Mutharika fires Chaponda over maizegate

Thu, 23 Feb 2017 09:42:18 +0000

By Bennie Mundando

MALAWI’S Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, George Chaponda has been fired by President Peter Mutharika over the maizegate scandal as details are emerging that Malawi was not facing a food crisis requiring the import of maize from Zambia as it could have sourced the commodity internally.

ADMARC chose to declare a crisis and import because it did not have ready cash to pay peasant farmers within that country.

Dr. Chaponda has been fired to pave way for investigations into the suspicious maize purchase from Zambia following mounting pressure from civil society groups to President Mutharika to get rid of Dr Chaponda for his involvement in the scam.

According to a report from the committee of inquiries, Dr. Chaponda unduly interfered in the import of maize from Zambia by overlooking the operations of ADMARC and decided to bring in Transglobe after a personal private meeting with its chief executive officer, Rashid Tayub, which was followed by an exchange of a number of emails over the deal in unclear circumstances, and without a contract.

After meeting with officials from the Ministry of Agriculture in Zambia, Dr. Chaponda is also alleged to have told permanent secretary, Julius Shawa that Transglobe would be paid by the Zambia Cooperative Federation (ZCF) for the 50,000 metric tonnes of maize it would ferry to Malawi, yet the company was not registered in Zambia and was not paying any tax to ZRA.

 

“The committee found that Dr. Chaponda arbitrarily, wrongly and in flagrant violation of the Public Procurement Act (PPA) used his powers as minister to give business to Transglobe, to supply maize to ADMARC. The committee further found that it was particularly improper as at no time did Transglobe have any contract with ADMARC,” reads the report in part.

The report also indicates that there might have been no need for ADMARC to venture outside the country in search of maize as there was evidence from Malawi’s National Food Agency (NFRA) that their local and open procurement of maize for humanitarian purposes at the price of K250 (Malawian Kwacha) per kilogramme was over-subsidised.

According to NFRA, the exercise to purchase maize from farmers realised 92,000 tonnes of maize and that the exercise was only suspended due to exhaustion of the purchase funds.

“The committee noted with great approval that a significant number of the people who sold their maize to NFRA were smallholder farmers. The committee also noted that ADMARC was able to source for close to 106, 000 tonnes of maize locally and the committee did not receive any evidence that suggested that ADMARC could not have procured more maize locally had it done so.

“The committee thus concluded that if ADMARC had conducted a proper due diligence exercise, it probably could have come to the conclusion that there was no need to venture outside the country in search of maize,” reads some sections of the report.

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