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Admarc return delayed again

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KASOMEKERA —It is not a 100 percent retrenchment

Malawians and the 3,296 workers at the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) will have to wait a bit longer before government completes the purported restructuring of the State-owned grain trader and have it back in business.

This follows a decision by the parastatal’s management to extend the forced paid leave for the members of staff to January 31, 2023.

Consequently, this has affected the intended 100 percent staff retrenchment which is said to be part of the restructuring exercise.

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This is a second extension for the announced three-month paid leave for the Admarc employees, which was last month pushed from November 30, 2022 to December 31, 2022.

Admarc Head of Human Resource and Administration Ethel Zilirakhasu has said in her December 23, 2022 memo to all Admarc members of staff that the change is due to the delay by the National Audit Office (NAO) to complete the payroll audit at the corporation.

“It is with much regret that management would like to inform you that the paid leave has been extended to January 31, 2023.

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“Government committed to complete all activities pertaining to the retrenchment including payroll audit by December 31, 2022 but the NAO had not yet completed its work,” Zilirakhasu’s memo reads.

The payroll audit commenced on December 12, 2022 and is reportedly aimed at tracing ghost workers and addressing all “payroll related clandestine schemes”.

Zilirakhasu has also disclosed in her communication that there is a revised roadmap for the corporate restructuring and that the retrenchment will still be done at 100 percent; costing government about K8.9 billion.

But newly appointed Chairperson of the Admarc Board Zachary Kasomekera said Wednesday that the 100 percent retrenchment is a misrepresentation of what ought to be done on the ground.

Kasomekera said with some Admarc staff taking part in the implementation of the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) and everyday operations of the company, the corporation cannot lay off all its employees at once.

He, however, indicated that the taskforce on the restructuring exercise informed the board on the need for a one-month extension so that it consolidates the figures.

“As regards the retrenchment, that was misreported because Admarc still needs certain activities to be done such as AIP and the selling of maize. As such, it is not a 100 percent retrenchment, because some key personnel will still be retained for such essential work,” Kasomekera said.

Asked if the developments at Admarc do not worry his office, which holds 99 percent of shares in the parastatal which was created to anchor Malawi’s agro-based economy, Secretary to Treasury MacDonald Mafuta Mwale said he is keen on ensuring that all processes are done thoroughly.

“There is a new board and they asked for an extension to be able to perfect all that has been on the cards, and we thought we could grant them the extension. At the end of the day, we want to have a viable institution,” Mwale said.

In June 2022, then board chairperson for Admarc Alexander Kusamba Dzonzi told Parliament that the corporation could run with just about 1,000 employees, thereby putting 2,600 jobs on the line, a majority of whom he said do not hold requisite qualifications.

Then minister of Agriculture Lobin Lowe on August 30, 2022 abruptly closed the State-owned grain trader and sent all workers on leave, to pave way for investigations into reports of fraud, theft and mismanagement.

An external audit report at the time revealed that the parastatal had lost about K330 million to fraud and abuse allegedly masterminded by employees through bogus car insurance and medical cover claims as well as dubious staff loan scheme.

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