A joint committee of Parliament report on Admarc maize procurement from Zambia has called for investigations into the conduct of government officials among them Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda.
The report also recommends disciplinary proceedings against some senior Admarc officials.
The recommendations are similar to those the commission of inquiry which President Peter Mutharika instituted made at the weekend concerning Chaponda’s conduct and alleged interference in the maize procurement as well as suspected flouting of public service regulations.
Presenting the report in Parliament yesterday, co-chairperson of the committee Joseph Chidanti Malunga called for Mutharika to publicly censure Chaponda for allegedly using his influence to arrange for produce trader Transglobe Produce Ltd as sub-contractor to Zambian supplier, Zambia Cooperative Federation (ZCF).
The committee said Chaponda had “arbitrarily” and “wrongly” used his influence which was a violation of the country’s public procurement laws.
The report also rejected Chaponda’s reasoning that he referred Transglobe to the Zambian government because Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) was not helping them, describing it as breeding corrupt practices.
It said what Chaponda did was tantamount to usurping Admarc’s powers to procure maize as per its mandate and his justification that the government was dealing with a crisis remained a violation of the laws on public procurement.
The report cited the Fieldyork Scandal in the Ministry of Education where the minister involved at the time, Sam Mpasu, was eventually jailed for the role he played in the procurement of notebooks.
“The committee further recommends that law enforcement agencies namely the Malawi Police Service and Anti-Corruption Bureau investigate the conduct of the Honourable Minister with a view to finding out if his conduct did not amount to a misuse or abuse of public office,” said Chidanti Malunga.
As the co-chairperson read out the recommendations on Chaponda, the embattled minister seemed laid back and would shake his head as Chidanti Malunga described him as “dishonest”.
On Admarc, the committee found that the ZCF contract was backdated to June 17 2016 when it was signed after a month just to get approvals from Office of the Director of Public Procurement.
According to the committee, Admarc’s alleged fraudulent activities extended to the internal procurement committee which recorded that the chairperson was present when in fact he was in Zambia at the time.
“The committee further found that Admarc did not conduct any due diligence exercise to guide it on the determination of tonnage of maize to be imported into Malawi; the capacity of Kaloswe Ltd and ZCF to deliver 100 000MT and reasonableness and fairness of the price,” the report findings reads.
Just as Admarc and Chaponda, other players in the procurement of the 100 000 metric tonnes of which only 4112MT was delivered did not escape the wrath of the committee, and these included Secretary to the Treasury Ronald Mangani, central bank governor Charles Chuka, director of debt and aid in the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Madalo Nyambose as well as Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Erica Maganga.
The committee accused the government officials of lying under oath when they claimed they had no knowledge of the contract between Kaloswe Ltd and Admarc after the committee uncovered an e-mail dated July 12 2016 from Nyambose containing an addendum to the Kaloswe contract copied to Mangani, Admarc chief executive officer Foster Mulumbe and company secretary George Bakuwa.
“The committee thus concluded that the aforementioned officials had lied under oath on this aspect of their testimony and meant to mislead the committee,” the report reads.
The committee also recommends the possibility of Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) commencing perjury proceedings against the government officials for lying under oath to the parliamentary committee.
The involvement of Grain Traders Association of Malawi (Gtam) in the procurement also raised questions in the inquiry. The committee described Gtam chairperson Grace Mijiga Mhango’s involvement as unusual and improper and recommended criminal proceedings against her.
After delivering the report, Chaponda’s request to respond to the allegations was met with resistance from the opposition benches, some of whom could be heard calling out “mbava iyo” (thief), prompting Speaker of Parliament Richard Msowoya to implore the MPs to remove emotions and personal vendettas from the issue.
The House has since agreed that debate continues today, which is private members day, contrary to practice which allocates Wednesday for presentation and debate of committee reports.