Malawiâ€™s Ministry of Agriculture has cancelled tenders for the supply of subsidised fertiliser for the upcoming farming season, raising the spectre of delays for a programme that has been dogged by controversy since its introduction in 2005.
In a media statement released on Friday signed by Principal Secretary Jeff Luhanga, the ministry did not provide reasons for the decision.
“The Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security wishes to advise all prospective bidders who participated in the above tender that it has been cancelled,” reads the statement, adding that the tenders will be re-advertised.
Asked to explain the decision, Minister of Information Moses Kunkuyu on Saturday cited inefficiencies in awarding contracts to fertiliser suppliers in 2011 as the reason for the cancellation.
“Last year, we had suppliers who were paid in full, but up to now they have not supplied all the fertiliser yet and when the same suppliers were awarded contracts again this year government moved in. When a person has misbehaved, we have to examine them before engaging them again,” he said.
Kunkuyu alleged that some companies owe government up to K130 million (about $52 000) after failing to supply fertiliser in the last farming year.
He said the suppliers connived with some officials in the Ministry of Agriculture to get the contracts again this year.
But the minister could not mention the suppliers and officials involved in the alleged corruption.
Kunkuyu trashed accusations some quarters have raised that government wants to rope in its own businessmen and do away with those with ties to the erstwhile ruling party.
“That is not true, we are not looking at party affiliation. We are looking at ability and the suppliers who supply the fertiliser in time,” he said.
Last year, a report on the programme by officials from World Bank and Ministry of Finance, among others, singled out Mulli Brothers and Nyiombo Investiments for delaying the timely delivery of the fertiliser.
The report also said Mulli Brothers was awarded a contract to deliver the fertiliser despite charging higher prices than other bidders.