The Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture is concerned over further delays by the ODPP in issuing a ‘No Objection’ on this year’s successful Fisp bidders, which may affect implementation of the programme.
Andrex Kalinde, chief executive officer of Smallholder Farmers Revolving Fund of Malawi (SFRFM), the company government designated to manage Fisp, told this paper a fortnight ago that his firm submitted the list of successful bidders to the Office of Director of Public Procurement (ODDP) on August 5 2017 for review.
The allowable period for the ODDP to review the list of successful bidders is 10 days which, in this case, expired on August 15 2017.
Following ODPP’s failure to issue the ‘No Objection’ during the allowable period, the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture summoned officials of the Ministry of Agriculture and SFRFM two weeks ago to express their concerns.
Chairperson of the committee Joseph Chidanti–Malunga said the delays may affect transportation of fertiliser by the suppliers from warehouses to respective districts in good time.
“We don’t want a repeat of last year’s experience when the programme was dodged by numerous challenges,” said Malunga.
But the ODDP told Weekend Nation then, that the delays could mean there were issues to be clarified by the procuring entities or other institutions involved in the procurement or that there is need for extra information before granting the ‘No Objection’.
The ODPP has now delayed in issuing the ‘No Objection’ by a month.
But until yesterday we could not speak to director of ODPP Paul Taulo as he could not pick our calls.
The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), another body which was tasked to review the list, told Weekend Nation on Wednesday that it had finalised the exercise.
“The bureau was requested to vet the companies and provide information on whether the companies are under investigation or prosecution for any corruption allegation or offences and perform high level review under the corruption prevention process,” the bureau spokesperson Egrita Ndala said.
“The bureau gave its observations to the relevant authority. The Bureau is not the right authority to divulge that. You may wish to contact the ODPP on the issue.”
Ministry allays fears
But Fisp national coordinator, who is also spokesperson for the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Osborne Tsoka, has given assurance that the programme is on schedule and preparations are progressing well.
He said coupon production for last year was finalised in December whereas the first consignment of coupons for this year is expected in the country by the 18th of this month.
“Last year, there were also challenges in concluding contracts with suppliers and the process went into the first week of October, but this year it is expected that before end of September everything would have been finalised,” said Tsoka.
Commenting on concerns by the parliamentary committee that government maybe caught off guard if some suppliers will be rejected by ODPP, the Fisp coordinator insisted that even in such a situation the programme will not be affected.
“Unlike in the previous programmes, when tonnage was allocated to an individual supplier, this time around distribution of inputs has been opened within a district. If one supplier is eliminated from the list or fails to supply other suppliers will supply.”
On suggestions by the committee that the suppliers should be given a specific area to distribute the fertiliser, Tsoka said government has not yet decided on such a proposal.
According to Malunga, the committee wants a ring-fenced arrangement so that it is easy to identify a supplier that has failed to deliver or has messed up the programme.
The committee also expects the ODPP not to issue contracts to suppliers that have more than one similar director as the MPs suspect doing so leads to monopoly of the contracts.
Meanwhile, some farmers have expressed dissatisfaction with the way the programme is being run and say it is not benefitting them.
Farmers not benefitting, says FUM
Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) president Alfred Kapichila Banda said in an interview on Tuesday that only a handful of farmers are accessing subsidy fertiliser; hence, farmers don’t need the programme.
He said: “Imagine only four people can receive the coupons in one village and the fertiliser is shared amongst so many needy people. In other circumstances, the beneficiaries end up selling the fertiliser because of poverty, so where is the benefit?” he queried.
According to a FUM Fisp Monitoring Report Number 3 based on a study conducted between December 13 2016 and January 5 2017, the market has a high presence of vendors and other non-beneficiaries who are buying Fisp fertiliser in bulk in 27 districts across the country except Likoma.