Some members of Parliament (MPs) have expressed concern about government’s decision to let AHCX buy maize from farmers, saying the company cannot be trusted after its involvement in the maizegate scam.
Speaking during a budget analysis interface working dinner with officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development last week, the MPs said involving AHCX in the buying of maize would result in more problems.
Dowa East MP Richard Chimwendo Banda asked why government allowed the arrangement but Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture chairperson Joseph Chidanti Malunga told his fellow MPs that government’s decision follows a recommendation his committee made after maizegate.
Said Chimwendo: “Why has this arrangement been made? We all know how AHCX handled the maize issue during the maize saga; so having them buy the maize leaves a lot to be desired.”
In his response, Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Principal Secretary Grey Nyandule Phiri said government is only accommodating suggestions made by the agriculture committee on the purchases.
“Involving AHCX is one of the recommendations the committee on agriculture made. It’s not that we are involving them directly, but they will be subcontracted by National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) who will finance them. You know we can’t deal with them directly,” he said.
In an interview later, Chidanti Malunga said he was happy that government has started using some of the recommendations they have made as one way of making Malawians’ lives easier.
He said: “This is a recommendation we made as a committee. We are happy that the ministry has taken some steps. NFRA will only handle the money and the buying will be done by AHCX. The reason government is still funding NFRA is that they cannot give the money directly to AHCX because it is a sub`vented entity.”
But he said the MPs concern over the use of AHCX in the maize purchase has been noted, adding his committee will monitor it closely to ensure there is no repeat of what happened with maizegate.
Last season, maize traders faced challenges in selling their commodity and there was speculation of favouritism in the way NFRA was purchasing maize.
For this reason, the Parliamentary Committee of Agriculture demanded that maize purchase this year should be done by AHCX.
AHCX communications manager Thom Khanje confirmed in an interview with The Nation last week that they will be purchasing maize after being contracted by NFRA. He said they are expected to purchase 32 000 tonnes of maize for strategic grain reserves.
In the proposed 2018/19 National Budget, the ministry has been allocated K20 billion for maize purchase. n