Members of Parliament (MPs) in Malawi under the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Irrigation and Food Security have demanded an inquiry into the procurement process of maize from neighbouring Zambia.
The committee’s position comes against the background of a storm over the procurement of imported maize, especially from Zambia.
Committee chairperson Joseph Chidanti-Malunga said in an interview yesterday that his committee will meet after the Christmas holidays to recommend the setting up of a commission of inquiry to probe the deal.
He said: “Immediately after the festive season, we are recommending that three parliamentary committees meet… the Agriculture, Budget [and Finance] and probably the Legal Affairs [committees] to see how we can institute a commission of inquiry.
“The inquiry would establish what exactly went wrong, why are there delays in the purchases and it is possible they are saying they bought this much when they didn’t buy the said quantity. We are doing this immediately after the festive season.”
Malunga also said Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Food Security George Chaponda should explain the perceived mess, particularly on the use of a private company as a broker of the maize deal in Zambia.
He said: “We have questions. We need to know why they [government] used a private company and told the nation that they were dealing with a government.
“We want to know what they are hiding because if they had bought this maize direct from government we should have had it long time ago.
“These are the same accountability issues we have been talking, we need to be as accountable as possible so that Malawians know what exactly transpired.”
When contacted yesterday, Chaponda declined to comment on the issue, saying: “Talk to the PRO [public relations officer] of the ministry, I left everything in his hands these days.”
But when told that the blame was targeted at him, he passed his phone to another man who said the minister was in a meeting.
The maize purchase deal is currently marred with controversy regarding contractual issues involving the State-produce trader Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc).
While Admarc insists that it is buying the staple grain from Zambia Cooperative Federation (ZCF), a government agency, documents show that Admarc is actually using a private Zambian company.
The development has angered the parliamentary committee which wants a commission of inquiry to be set up to investigate the entire process.
In October, Admarc said by November it would have brought in about 300 000 metric tonnes from Zambia and overseas countries such as Brazil, Mexico and Romania.
But Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) executive director John Kapito in an interview said the trouble starts when Parliament approves loans but lacks mechanisms to make follow ups when the process starts and ends.
“Now it becomes an issue because the losers are the people in need of food and this is more of an insult to consumers,” he said.
Kapito said if an inquiry was to be carried out the best is to outsource an independent body because experience has shown such inquiries take long and sometimes provide no feedback to the public. n