The Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development has opened a parallel investigation into the alleged misprocurement of maize from Zambia by State grain trader Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc).
Civil Society Agriculture Network (CisaNet) has since welcomed the parallel probe, arguing that the committee is well-placed to undertake the inquiry.
CisaNet said previous commissions of inquiry proved ineffective and rarely published reports for public consumption, hence, the need for independent probes.
Committee chairperson Joseph Chidanti Malunga told The Nation on Monday that Parliament has launched the investigation to ensure there is transparency and accountability in the matter.
He said the committee felt it would be unfair and a disservice if it kept quiet on the matter when poor and hungry Malawians are searching for answers on the maize deal.
Said Malunga: “Thus, we are doing our own investigations to get to the bottom of this matter. In fact, I am at Parliament meeting relevant stakeholders to strategise on how best to carry out the investigations.”
He further said the parallel investigation would enable members of Parliament (MPs) play their oversight role on the matter.
“We will issue the first report on January 31 2016. After that, we will officially present our findings to members of Parliament in March 2017 [when the House sits for Mid-Year Budget Review] together with recommendations on what should be done,” said Malunga.
CisaNet national coordinator Tamani Nkhono Mvula commended the committee for taking up the issue, emphasising that history has shown that commissions of inquiry are set up to simply silence inquisitive Malawians.
He said since the alleged maize scandal came to light, CisaNet has been urging independent institutions to conduct separate inquiries “so that at the end of the day, we should be able to compare the notes”.
“We want that, at the end of the day, we should be able to triangulate the results from those inquiries. We have been having commissions of inquiry since I don’t know when.
“But in most cases, when the commission produces a report, such a report is not made public. So, it is very likely that even this commission that has been instituted is going to delay [in carrying out its work] and we may not see a report of this,” said Mvula.
He asked the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and other interested civil society organisations (CSOs) to also carry out their own investigations into the matter.
The Malawi-Zambia maize deal has sparked controversy with some CSOs calling for the suspension of Admarc chief executive officer Foster Mulumbe and Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda to pave the way for investigations.
However, Chaponda has stuck to his guns, challenging that he cannot step down over the matter. He accused those agitating for his suspension or outright dismissal as being jealous. n