Government, through Admarc, is cancelling two maize procurement contracts with foreign middlemen from Mexico and Romania amid indications that the planned purchases were unjustified by demand in the country.
Appearing before a joint public inquiry into the maize deal yesterday, Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) chief executive officer (CEO) Foster Mulumbe made the revelation of the cancellation of the contracts.
The revelation raised fresh questions after Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda had in November reportedly told Parliament that the Romanian supplier had already delivered maize to Malawi.
Mulumbe conceded to the committee that Admarc now has more maize than it can sell to traders and that all planned procurements of maize were under review—raising questions on why the parastatal signed the contracts in the first place.
Mulumbe, who on numerous occasions previously feigned ignorance, because he was on leave, retracted his stance and confirmed senior management have travelled to the United States (US) to cancel the deal with a Mexican supplier.
He said the Romanian deal has been ‘amicably terminated’, but said the delegation that has travelled will also discuss with the Mexican supplier to also ‘halt negotiations’ on procuring maize from the supplier.
“We have cancelled the contract with the Romanian supplier. The name of the supplier is Africa Expo. They were supposed to supply 100 000 metric tonnes. The contract was supposed to expire next month [February] but they had not supplied any maize. They were still negotiating with Cear [Central East African Railways] to use the Nacala corridor and we have taken advantage [of this] to cancel the contract,” said Mulumbe.
The revelation prompted more questions from members of Parliament (MPs), in particular on why Admarc signed the deal in the first place; why the Minister of Agriculture indicated to the National Assembly in November that the Romania maize was already in the country, and what will be the legal ramifications of the move.
Mulumbe appeared to have no clear answers to the questions.
Through a question from Dowa East MP Richard Chimwendo, it transpired that three top officials at Admarc have travelled to the US, allegedly spending over K51 million on the the trip.
Mulumbe said he was on a working leave; hence, he did not know why his deputy had travelled out of the country and to which country she was going. He then retracted several statements later, prompting a rebuke from members of the committee, with Karonga MP Frank Mwenifumbo who censured the embattled CEO for the casual approach to the inquiry on matters of serious national interest.
Mulumbe did not comment on the reports that the three Admarc officials would blow K51 million on the trip.
He earlier admitted the procurement of maize from Zambia through another private trader could have been done better.
Mulumbe added that there was need for special internal investigation at Admarc on several discrepancies in the documents surrounding the procurement and findings by the committee, which raise questions on the actual source of the maize after a majority of the maize inspected indicated it was not branded with the logo of the supplieer ZCF, but some had markings of local Malawi fertiliser companies. n