There was maladministration across the board. There was irregularity. There was criminality. There was illegality. Those were the major conclusions of the investigations of the Office of the Ombudsman’s into the irregular purchase and illegal disposal of the tractors and maize shellers whose loan, we taxpayers, are toiling and future generations are overburdened to repay.
As usual news reporters chose to name and shame the politicians who bought the tractors as if buying were the problem. The problem that we, in the Bottom Up expedition, sought to see exposed was how a country with perennial food shortage could refuse to use tractors to improve its farming.
The report is clear. The Cashgate Cabinet was in overdrive to sell and dispose of the assets. So hurried, in fact, was the Cashgate Cabinet that it even gave one tractor to a village headman, without any paperwork, who has since defied the government pleas to give it back to the ADD.
Although she saw illegality in the maladministrators’ handling of the sale, the Ombudsman softly gave the wrongdoers, the maladministrators, and the near-criminals a chance to get out of the quagmire with their names and reputations still intact.
- She asked the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development to get back the tractor that was given to a village headman in Machinga within 30 days. Is the tractor back?
- She asked the Ministry of Agriculture to prepare a comprehensive report on the performance and omnipresence of tractors for use by farmers. Within 30 days. Is the report ready?
- She directed the Greenbelt Initiative and Ministry of Agriculture to prepare reports on the poor performance and cause of malfunction of the equipment. Within 30 days. Are the reports ready?
- She challenged the Ministry of Finance to give an account of how much money has been realised from the sale of the equipment. Within 30 days. Where is the report?
- She also directed the Ministry of Finance to improve its record keeping related to the sale of the farm equipment. Within 30 days. Are the records now clean and ready?
- Although she concluded that the sale of the tractors was illegal, she directed the Ministry of Agriculture to simply apologise to us Malawians through newspapers, radio and TV, within 30 days. Where is the apology?
If the Ombudsman meant that her directives be adhered to within 30 calendar days, then we regret to say that her investigations, report and recommendations have been trashed. However, we, Abiti Joyce Befu, also popularly known as MG 66, Alhajj Mufti Jean-Philippe LePoisson, SC (RTD), the Most Paramount Native Authority Mzee Mandela, and I, the Mohashoi, strongly believe that the principal secretaries for the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Finance and leaders at the Greenbelt Initiative understood the deadline to mean 30 working days, which expire on November 25 2016.
Our expectation is that should that date expire without action, the maladministrators mentioned in the report will be arrested, prosecuted, made to service the entire loan, or, in default be executed so that we bring closure to Tractorgate on high note.
If the Ombudsman does not refer the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions by the end of 2016, we will demonstrate naked. We will block roads with bags of fertiliser, heads of cattle, chicken, pigs, hoes, water cans, water pumps, and spray the atmosphere with herbicides and insecticides.
If you do not believe us, pray to live long enough to see what January 2017 will bring to tractorgatists.