The High Court in Blantyre has blocked a recommendation by Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Irrigation to exclude Transglobe Produce Export Limited from the list of this year’s Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) suppliers.
Lawyer representing Transglobe Produce, Lusungu Gondwe, confirmed yesterday that the court granted his client the order to stay the recommendations on Friday.
He said the stay order meant Transglobe was now free to participate in Fisp “as if no such recommendations were made”.
Said Gondwe: “State agencies like Ministry of Agriculture and Office of the Director of Public Procurement [ODPP] in charge of Fisp have to deal with Transglobe just like any other bidder.
“The court was satisfied on preliminary assessment that the recommendations made by the committee may be illegal, unreasonable and travesty of commercial justice.”
The order for stay of the decision, issued by newly appointed High Court Judge Jack N’riva, prohibits the committee from making the recommendation to the ministry and other State agencies for them not to give business to Transglobe under Fisp pending a judicial review of the matter.
Reads the order in part: “Until the hearing and determination of the Originating Motion for Judicial Review herein, the following decision of the respondent [committee] is stayed.”
However, the court has given the committee the right to apply to vary or discharge the order at any time but after informing the applicant’s lawyers in writing at least 48 hours before hand.
The committee had recommended to the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development officials last week that Transglobe should not make the final list of companies to supply inputs under Fisp allegedly because it was under probe by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB).
In July this year, ACB arrested one of Transglobe directors, Rashid Tayub, alongside former Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda in connection with government’s procurement of maize from Zambia.
Both the committee’s chairperson Joseph Chidanti Malunga and spokesperson of the National Assembly said they were yet to see the order.
However, Malunga said he did not think there was any institution that could stop Parliament from doing its oversight.
He said: “If we were playing our oversight nobody can stop us from doing that. So if there are issues then let those issues be there but you cannot stop Parliament from doing its oversight, it’s not possible.”
Among the grounds for challenging the recommendation, Transglobe questions whether the committee correctly appreciated and discharged its constitutional, statutory and administrative law duties in relation to its decision.
Further Transglobe argues that the committee’s action substantially and significantly affects its fundamental right to economic activity and business life as investigations, criminal or otherwise “are no bar to enjoyment of its right to economic activity until due process of law dictates so.” n