Keen to keep the momentum on Maizegate , the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development says it will summon Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) officials to follow up on recommendations in the report.
The move follows the House’s adoption of the report on May 17 this year, which now means that Parliament is legally mandated to take action on issues raised in the report.
But political analyst Henry Chingaipe has said it is not an automatic guarantee that duty bearers will act on the adopted report, arguing that going by the trends, such recommendations are sometimes not prioritised.
The committee’s chairperson, Joseph Chidanti-Malunga, told Nation on Sunday that members are interested to know the progress made so far, especially regarding Admarc officials implicated in the scam as well as investigations into the role fired Agriculture Minister George Chaponda played in the purchase of 100 000 metric tonnes of the staple grain from Zambia.
“We feel that whatever ACB was doing was not in reference to Parliament. Now that Parliament has recommendations, they should act in reference to Parliament.
That is why a week ago, we sent back Principal Secretary of Agriculture Erica Maganga when she appeared before our committee because members could not entertain someone who lied under oath,” he said.
Chidanti-Malunga said ACB’s silence on the progress of their investigations was worrying to the committee and that it was impossible for members to take any action before adoption of the report.
He said the committee would also want to see all officials who lied under oath during investigations into the Zambia maize deal prosecuted as the law demands, adding that failure to take action would be viewed as tolerance to corruption.
According to ChidantiMalunga, officials who lied under oath include former Reserve Bank Governor, former secretary to the Treasury and budget director. Asked on what action the committee will take if ACB officials will not take heed of the calls, Malunga declared that no public official is above the law.
But Chingaipe pointed out that a recommendation is different from a resolution; hence, the task rests with Parliament to ensure that ACB acts on the recommendations.
“We should not be naive that the adoption will translate into action by the agencies in the Executive because that’s not how things happen in this country.
The recommendations can be looked at as just recommendations and not taken seriously.
“ACB can say it doesn’t have money or something and the issue might end just like that and that is why there is need for persistence by the members of Parliament [MPs] in taking to task the responsible ministers until action is taken,” he said.
ACB director-general Lucas Kondowe said in an interview yesterday his body has nothing to hide in the matter and that he is ready to meet the parliamentary committee anytime and at the venue of their choice.
Last month, Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) board met in Lilongwe to decide on the fate of its chief executive officer (CEO) Foster Mulumbe and inside sources said he was fired, though the board kept a tight lid on the development.
According to a letter from the committee inviting Mulumbe to the hearing dated April 20 2017, Ref.No.DC/2 which we have seen, the suspended CEO was facing four charges of performing duties in an unsatisfactory and inefficient manner, or neglecting or omitting to perform the same contrary to regulation 16(b) of Admarc conditions of service.
Mulumbe was also being charged with failing to conduct due diligence before contracting with Zambia Cooperative Federation (ZCF) contrary to regulation 117 of the Public Procurement Regulations.
The third charge is disregarding standing operating instructions relevant to appointment, contrary to regulation 16(e) of Admarc conditions of service.
The CEO was also being charged of embarking on external travel without clearance from the board chairperson, contrary to prevailing government policy as contained in circular Ref. No. 15/01/1 of August 25 2015.
A report that the commission of inquiry headed by retired Chief Justice Anastasia Msosa presented to President Peter Mutharika on the maize procurement from Zambia also faulted Admarc for flouting approval rules, systems, thereby causing discrepancies.
“The Ministry of Justice, as legal adviser to government, was completely bypassed. The commission considers these as reckless and inexcusable. In addition, the commission finds that certain conduct of Admarc officials in executing the ZCF contract amounts to fraud and exposes Admarc and ultimately Government to civil litigation,” it adds.
The commission, however, concludes that Admarc was grossily negligent in failing to negotiate a lower contract price for the purchase and delivery of maize under ZCF contract, considering that the maize was to be sourced from Zambia’s Eastern Province, which is near Mchinji.
The report also recommended that Chaponda be investigated by ACB over his role in the involvement of a local firm, Transglobe, in the county’s questionable procurement of relief maize from Zambia.
In its recommendations, the report says in part: “The dealings between the Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Dr. George Chaponda ,MP, in this procurement process should be further investigated by the ACB as the manner in which Transglobe obtained an export permit from the Ministry of Agriculture of Zambia to supply maize to Malawi raises suspicion,” ACB senior public relations officer Egrita Ndala told our sister paper The Nation in February that the bureau is conducting a forensic analysis of property seized from Chaponda’s office as well as millions of cash that was found stashed in his house.