New details have emerged in the flawed tractors deal bought in 2011 using a $50 million loan from India with the manufacturer disputing that the equipment was archaic technology.
In a statement published in The Nation newspaper yesterday, Sonalika International dismissed government’s assertion and instead stressed that the tractors were “manufactured using the latest and best engineering technology available at the time”. The manufacturer added that the supplied tractors were suitable for Malawi.
“Sonalika is greatly concerned with that this allegation was made without any attempt to obtain technical and engineering information from Sonalika as manufacturers of the tractors,” reads in part the public response from Sonalika co-signed by Rupesh Khanna and Zubair Sharikmaslat.
In an interview yesterday, Ombudsman Martha Chazuma, whose office successfully investigated and prosecuted public officers for acting contrary to the requirement of the laws and code of conduct regarding the procurement and disposal of assets, said she was done with the issue and will not be drawn into reopening it.
She said: “In as far as the Office of the Ombudsman is concerned, we are functus officio over this matter. This means that we discharged our mandate and finished it. As Ombudsman, I cannot and will not be drawn into opening it.”
Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Principal Secretary Grey Nyandule Phiri yesterday refused to comment on the emerging information, saying the matter was in court.
He said: “That does not involve me anymore. Remember the issue is in court. So, I don’t think it’s time for me to talk about it.”
However, the matter in court relates to contempt of court proceedings for Phiri and his Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development counterpart Cliff Chiunda whom the Ombudsman accused of disrespecting a court order to make a public apology.
In an apology published after the court initially convicted them before later offering them an opportunity to be heard, the two justified the disposal of the tractors to government officials and politically-connected individuals on the basis that the tractors’ equipment and technical aspects were archaic.
But Sonalika International, an India-based company, refuted the allegations by government, saying the Malawi Government did not consult them when they made the said statement. Meanwhile, the court case is set for August 19.