The National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) says it needs K1 billion to rehabilitate the country’s strategic grain reserves which have decayed over the past decade.
The new NFRA board made the revelation yesterday during a news conference on reforms at the agency since last year and the state of food security in the country—the core mandate of the State-owned enterprise.
Board chairperson Dennis Kalekeni, flanked by the statutory body’s management and board members, painted a grim picture on the state of the infrastructure under the agency’s mandate but also revealed details of an audit finding.
He said the agency needs K1 billion to renovate some of its infrastructure, including the maize silos in Mzuzu and Luchenza in Thyolo which were constructed during the Bingu wa Mutharika administration, but ceased to be used soon after.
Luchenza silos were commissioned in 2010 and were last used in 2011 due to leakages and high moisture content while Mzuzu silos were commissioned in 2011 and were last used in 2012.
In 2007, Bingu wa Mutharika also commissioned the Mangochi silos complex built at a cost of K900 million.
Kalekeni said several silos at the NFRA headquarters in Kanengo, Lilongwe are in bad shape while two with a capacity of 40 000 metric tonnes (MT) of maize have been deemed irreparable.
He alleged that the agency spent public funds supporting successive governing parties, hired political appointees and was involved in various procurement irregularities.
Kalekeni said the audit focusing on the 2019/20 fiscal year revealed that the previous management was financing political parties and spent K611 million for such purposes instead of the institution’s core expenditures.
Among others, he said NFRA was paying rentals amounting to K61 million for facilities it never used.
Kalekeni said: “In maize procurement, there was a monopoly by certain heavyweight traders who would take a huge chunk of the supply.
“The deputy [chief executive officer] CEO position was created outside the established organogram. The decision came from the OPC [Office of the President and Cabinet].
“There was heavy political interference in the affairs of NFRA in terms of recruitment of officers.” Last year, the NFRA was given K7.7 billion to procure maize and purchased 35 000 MT of maize from some 83 farmers cooperatives at K215 per kg, but this year the agency is yet to receive funds.