The Lower Shire, Mponela and Likoma have been singled out as hotspots where coupons for Fisp end up in wrong hands.
Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) national coordinator Osborne Tsoka, said the Shire Valley is a hotspot for unscrupulous activities, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development is determining how much tonnage of fertiliser is utilised in the area.
He said Likoma is a problem because suppliers are reluctant to deliver Fisp items in the island district because of the logistical hurdles they face.
The problem with Mponela, according to the Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) president Alfred Kapichira-Banda is that people who have been seen queuing up at fertiliser shops to buy Fisp inputs are vendors and not the poor farmers.
Tsoka, who is also spokesperson for the ministry was commenting in the wake of a police report which states that there are discrepancy between the quantity of fertilizer a supplier delivered in five centres in Nsanje and the records of sale and coupons redeemed there.
He said they started getting reports of people buying coupons from the Lower Shire households last year but they were not able to trace the supplier servicing the area then because the company was not on full contract with the ministry.
“But this year, we asked the police to investigate the supplier for Tengani, Fatima, Bangula, Solijeni and Nsanje Boma after we received a tip off that some people were buying coupons in the area,” said . Tsoka
Police investigated the area last month and in a memorandum to the Commissioner, Community Policing, titled Spot checks on Fisp Inputs Stock and Sales in Saeed Investment Shops File Reference Number CID/S/1 dated November 17 2017 which Weekend Nation has seen, Assistant Commissioner of Police O.S. Chisale advises on the need to enhance monitoring mechanisms to avert manipulation by unscrupulous suppliers and traders.
According to the memorandum, Saeed Investment which has been subcontracted by Dalitso General Suppliers Limited, supplied 2 000 bags of Urea and NPK to five shops in Nsanje. The report states that each shop was supplied with 240 bags of Urea and 160 bags of NPK.
The memorandum, however, says spot checks in three shops—at Nsanje Boma, Tengani and Bangula—show that there are discrepancies between the number of bags delivered at each of the shops and the number of coupons retained for the bags sold.
“The figures presented by the supplier contrast sharply with the findings of the spot checks which point to a high likelihood of deliberate manipulation,” reads the memorandum.
On November 4 2017 the shop at Nsanje Boma received 150 bags of Urea. All bags on the consignment were sold out but no records were given and no coupons were found, states the memorandum.
It says on November 13, the same shop received 250 bags of which 150 was NPK and 100 was Urea giving a total of 350, “only 40 bags were sold and the shop had a balance of 42 bags, whereas 141 bags were missing and no account was given. Only 17 coupons were found against the alleged sale of the 40 bags.”
“A spot check at Tengani revealed that the shop received a consignment of 200 bags of Urea on November 3 and 7. 175 bags were withdrawn and it is not known where they were taken to. Records showed that five bags were sold at the shop and there was a balance of 20 bags,” reads the memorandum.
The memorandum further states that the shop at Tengani received 25 bags of NPK on November 13 2017 and that two were sold and 23 bags were found during the inspection.
According to the spot checks, there was also no record at Bangula shop but a shop attendant identified as Amina Ishmael recalled that about 400 bags were received on November 2 2017, but only 39 bags were found.
The memorandum states that there were no records of sale. The shop assistant could also not produce coupons that were said to have been redeemed after the purchase.
Tsoka also said the problem in the Lower Shire is that many beneficiaries prefer to use fertiliser for irrigated farming which is done much later and not for the normal rain-fed crop.
According to Tsoka, the problem for Likoma is that most suppliers are reluctant to deliver only 70 tonnes of fertiliser. When they factor in the hurdles they go through to book the ship to transport the inputs against the profit margin, they end up not delivering.
“This leaves the beneficiaries with the only option of travelling to Nkhatabay to purchase the fertiliser which is costly,” he said.
This exposes the beneficiaries to the temptation of selling the coupons.
Tsoka said that after discovering the problem for the Lower Shire and Likoma, the Ministry of Agriculture wants to determine the actual uptake of fertiliser in the two areas to match it with supply.
“If there is evidence that the inputs are not being utilised, the ministry may decide to provide needy households with livestock instead of fertiliser,” he said.
A Lilongwe-based police officer who is in Nsanje for the verification exercise, George Pindani said in a telephone interview on Wednesday that the findings are in sharp contrast with statements made by the supplier.
Kusani Visabwe, an auditor from the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, who was in the district for the verification exercise, what the police officer said.
Said Pindani: “I have already met the supplier and the figures he has given do not match with what is on the ground. For instance, he told me that he had supplied 600 bags of Urea at Tengani but when I visited the outlet, I was told that the shop only received 300 bags. I have also spoken with the Dado (district agriculture development officer) and he also testified that it is the same scenario in all the places where it is being claimed that the inputs were supplied.”
Tsoka, however, said the ministry will pay the supplier for only the redeemed coupons for the inputs that were made available to the farmers.
Dalitso General Suppliers Limited Dalitso Masina managing director faulted the police findings in an interview on Thursday.
“They just want to tarnish our image. The problem is they want us to produce documents that they found from other suppliers. Dalitso is a company on its own and has its own system and management. How can we buy coupons? We have plenty of fertiliser on the ground which we import from Ukraine. It is shipped straight to Malawi and we collect it from Liwonde,” he said.
The Mponela fiasco
Kapichira-Banda said FUM is not surprised that some poor farmers have decided to sell their coupons after experiencing problems they experienced to sell their maize this year.
Many farmers have ended up selling their maize to vendors at as low as K50 per kilogramme (kg) after they were frustrated by Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) which was supposed to buy the commodity at the government farmgate price of K170 per kg.
Parliamentary Committee of Agriculture chairperson Joseph Chidanti Malunga, who is also MP for Nsanje South West, said contract documents clearly state that suppliers found buying coupons should be disqualified and urged all responsible offices to swiftly get to the bottom of the matter and resolve the problems.
Fourteen out of 32 companies were approved by the Smallholder Farmers Fertiliser Revolving Fund of Malawi (SFFRFM) to distribute Fisp this year. SFFRM is the firm government contracted to coordinate Fisp. n