Price of corruption

Thu, 16 Feb 2017 14:12:46 +0000


THE observation by the head of the Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) that there are people in the corridors of power misinforming the Head of State and presenting him with false proposals which are partly the cause of the high mealie meal prices in the country, deserves immediate action.

According to Mr Jervis Zimba, President Lungu is deliberately ill-advised to make critical decisions in the agricultural sector which are meant to benefit the majority of Zambians, when in fact the recommendations presented to the Head of State are actually designed to enrich a few individuals or organisations – and the Government officials themselves.

While Government, through the gracious intervention of President Lungu, worked out a mechanism to partner with the Grain Traders Association of Zambia, the Millers Association of Zambia and the Food Reserve Agency which would have ultimately lowered the price of the staple food, Mr Zimba thinks the President was misled by his advisors.

‘‘We are aware that there are people who are misinforming the President by coming up with wrong decisions in order to benefit a few individual milling companies. We are also aware that out of the 78 milling companies which were listed by the Ministry of Agriculture, only 12 were approved as beneficiaries of this maize agreement,’’ said Mr Zimba.

In fact the President may have been used to syphon money from the Treasury through the FRA who have been made to offload thousands of metric tonnes of maize to only a few selected millers dubiously chosen to benefit from the deal, while the price of mealie meal remains as high as ever.

The issue is that these selected millers receiving cheap maize from FRA have NOT reduced prices, which is the precondition for getting cheaper maize in the first place. And because the majority of the millers have not benefited from the arrangement, they could not lower prices.

In the end millers have maintained the high prices. What Mr Zimba is complaining about is that while this is so, the millers working in collusion with certain officials in the Ministry of Agriculture, are making a killing from the subsidised mealie meal while the consumer keeps paying maximum prices.

Now the ZNFU fears that should the other millers who have been shunted out of the deal and are incurring high production costs due to the selectivity of the ministry officials decide to stop producing mealie meal, the country will face a serious food shortage.

What is unacceptable is that a cabal inside a key Government agency such as the Ministry of Agriculture can deceive the Head of State to negotiate with stakeholders an arrangement which on the face of it could greatly benefit the country but only to pull the carpet under the feet of their superior when it comes to implementation. Unaware to the Head of State, these corrupt officials have no doubt arranged to receive kick-backs from the few millers accessing FRA maize so cheaply.

This is why although mealie meal prices were supposed to have reduced drastically more than a month ago, they have not because someone has pulled cotton over our eyes. In the process the FRA is daily dishing out tonnes and tonnes of the country’s meagre food reserves to a few millers to make gigantic profits for themselves because someone powerful but selfish has short-circuited the system.

It is annoying that while the Treasury is seriously stressed by the strategic maize reserves being syphoned from the FRA, the few millers benefiting from this scam are laughing all the way to the bank.

This is the price of corruption.


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