The board of directors of the cash-strapped State produce trader Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) has said it will investigate how their general manager Rhino Chiphiko bought a new vehicle early this month.
Chiphiko’s Nissan Patrol has cost the company K107 million and has become a source of conflict with the board which finds this an act of extravagance not in tandem with the company’s financial position.
Board chairperson Kusamba Dzonzi claimed on Sunday Chiphiko has procured the vehicle without the board’s approval.
He said the vehicle is outside the general manager’s entitlement (GM) as stipulated by government vehicle policy as per a circular from the Office of the Comptroller of Statutory Corporation, dated July 18 2017, Ref. No: C1/01/02.
The said circular advises board chairpersons and chief executive officers (CEOs) against buying vehicles for CEOs and directors outside the prescription of the government’s policy on motor vehicles.
However, in an interview, Chiphiko hit back at the board, saying there is nothing irregular about the procurement as the vehicle was sanctioned by a board resolution in 2019.
He said the resolution under reference no: R/12/109/05 dated December 30 2019, approved the procurement of a new vehicle for the Admarc head.
But in a written response, Dzonzi insists that procedure demands that any capital expenditure has to be approved by the board and this was never the case in this procurement.
He said the current board is aware of the resolution R/12/09/05, saying the car should have been bought then and not now because the former board may have compelling reasons for doing so, considering the prevailing economic condition of the time.
Dzonzi wondered why a resolution passed in 2019 was never executed all this time only to have it implemented in 2022 under different leadership.
He said: “The current board is guided by the financial and economic policies of the current government which believes in turning around the dying Admarc into a profitable one.”
But Chiphiko said the Nissan Patrol in question is cheaper than what he is entitled to, a Toyota Land cruiser TX, saying he is equally considerate of the financial position of the institution.
He said: “The car was purchased at K107 million less than a Toyota Prado TXL [K124 million] and Toyota Prado VXL [K154 million]. The car I have been using has clocked 368 000 km [kilometres] well beyond 200 000 km allowed.
“It was bought in 2012 by Dr. Jerry Jana and has been used by CEOs [Foster] Mulumbe, Late [Agness Roka] Mauwa, Felix Jumbe and acting CEO Ms Dehlisile Matondo Phiri. The car is 10-years-old. The Nissan Patrol is cheaper than its recommended equivalent Toyota TXL.”
However, Dzonzi indicated that the board is fully aware that the current car is old, but proposed to management to consider procuring a smaller and cheaper vehicle.
“I can state here, that our management has not yet come back to the board with clearance from the comptroller’s office advising Admarc Board to procure a smaller vehicle like a Toyota Fortuner for its GM as opposed to the authorised Toyota Land Cruiser Prado TX” he said.
Commenting on the matter on Sunday, Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency (Csat) executive director Willie Kambwandira said there is no justification to purchase such a high-value vehicle for a company that is in deep financial troubles.
He said what Admarc has done is a shame and a mockery to Malawians. He called on the appointing authority to fire both the board and the general manager.
Kambwandira said: “This goes to show the level of extravagance at Admarc and does not speak to the spirit of servant leadership.
“At a time we are expecting tight cost-cutting measures to come from the cash-strapped State produce marketer, Malawians are greeted with news that one man has purchased for himself a K 107 million vehicle.”
Both Dzonzi and Chiphiko are senior members of the ruling Malawi Congress Party and once served as members of Parliament in the 2014–2019 cohort.
Dzonzi was MCP spokesperson on finances in Parliament while Chiphiko was Budget and Finance Committee of Parliament chairperson.