Queries have emerged over the disposal of tractors government bought in 2012 using a loan from India, giving public servants an advantage over other interested parties.
Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture chairperson Felix Jumbe faulted the decision to sell 60 HP tractors with allied implements to government officials whom he said are not farmers.
Speaking in an interview, Jumbe said: “It is good that government decided to sell the tractors because it could not have been good to give them out freely.”
But Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development principal secretary II Bright Kumwembe defended the decision in an interview this week, saying there was nothing wrong with some government officials buying the tractors because they are also farmers.
He said: “If you saw the adverts that we placed in the media, there is nowhere government officials are being barred from buying the tractors. If I have got land and I have money then I can get the tractors.”
However, Jumbe accused government of employing double standards in allowing its officials to pay the tractor loan over a considerable period of time and yet giving those not working in the public service 30 days grace period upon receiving an offer letter.
In 2012, government obtained a $50 million (K21 billion) loan from India and bought 177 tractors, 144 maize shellers, seed cum and fertiliser drilling machines in a drive to mechanise farming in the country.
Some of the tractors were distributed to various agriculture development divisions (ADDs) nationwide during the Joyce Banda administration early last year with the remaining 68 set to be sold to bidders who met the government set criteria.
To buy the tractor, bidders should be Malawian nationals, have certificate of incorporation or business to verify nationality or any useful document, must be small to medium-scale farmers, have enough land (minimum of five hectares) and be ready to hire out the machinery to other farmers and pay cash within 30 days upon receipt of offer letter.
One tractor is going at K5 613 894.84 while motorised maize sheller (5HP) is K803 000, seed cum and fertiliser drill machines are going at K865 100.
In contrast, similar brand new tractors at Tata Malawi are going at K37 million.
Civil Society Agriculture Network (CisaNet) national coordinator Tamani Nkhono-Mvula said while they see nothing wrong with the selling procedure, it was important that others do not have an unfair advantage in getting the tractors.
He said: “Government must put stringent measures to make sure that the government officials who take the tractors on credit pay the money in full.”