There was malad-ministration across the board. There was irregularity. There was criminality. There was illegality. Those were the major conclusions of the investigations of the Ombudswoman’s office into the irregular purchase and illegal disposal of the tractors and maize shellers whose loan, we taxpayers, are toiling and future generations are overburdened to repay.
As usual news reporters chose to name and shame the politicians who bought the tractors as if buying were the problem. The problem that we, in the Bottom Up expedition, sought to see exposed was how a country with perennial food shortage could refuse to use tractors to improve its farming.
The report is clear. The Cashgate Cabinet was in overdrive to sell and dispose of the assets. So hurried, in fact, was the Cashgate Cabinet that it even gave one tractor to a village headman, without any paperwork, who has since defied the government pleas to give it back to the ADD [Agricultural Development Division].
Although she saw illegality in the maladministrators’ handling of the sale, the Ombudswoman softly gave the wrongdoers, the maladministrators, and the near-criminals a chance to get out of the quagmire with their names and reputations still intact.
She asked the Ministry of Agriculture to get back the tractor that was given to a village headman in Machinga within 30 days. Is the tractor back?
- She asked the Ministry of Agriculture to prepare a comprehensive report on the performance and omnipresence of tractors for use by farmers. Within 30 days. Is the report ready?
- She directed the Greenbelt Initiative and Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development to prepare reports on the poor performance and cause of malfunction of the equipment. Within 30 days. Are the reports ready?
- She challenged the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development to give an account of how much money has been realised from the sale of the equipment. Within 30 days. Where is the report?
- She also directed the Ministry of Finance to improve its record keeping related to the sale of the farm equipment. Within 30 days. Are the records now clean and ready?
- Although she concluded that the sale of the tractors was illegal, she directed the Ministry of Agriculture to simply apologise to us Malawians through newspapers, radio and TV, Within 30 days. Where is the apology?
The Ombudswoman meant that her directives be adhered to within 30 working days. However, we, Abiti Joyce Befu, MEGA 1, also popularly known as MG 66, Alhajj Mufti Jean-Philippe LePoisson, SC (RTD), the Most Paramount Native Authority Mzee Mandela, Nganga Maigwaigwa, PSC (RTD) and I, the Mohashoi, strongly believe that the principal secretaries for the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Finance and leaders at the Greenbelt Initiative also understood the deadline to mean 30 working days.
Our expectation, therefore, was that if before the days expired without action, the maladministrators mentioned in the report would be arrested, prosecuted, made to service the entire loan, or, in default be executed so that we bring closure to Tractorgate on high note.
But the Attorney General had different and productive thoughts. He went to court and the justice system agreed with the said Attorney General that the Ombudswoman was too junior to ask her bosses to apologies to us, useless flies, also known as Malawians. And we still talk about fighting corruption. What a waste of precious time and energies!