It appears that in the aftermath of the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) ‘bad deal’ that cost the country K750 million, nobody really wants to take full responsibility for the mess up, save for the people who have out-rightly been given the boot from their jobs; well, that too is also debatable because some of them insist that it was a decision taken by a committee and not an individual to keep the deal under wraps.
Well, never mind who did what but what is paramount to Malawians is the recovery of the money. From the inquiry by the joint Parliamentary Committee this week, I gathered from one of those testifying that, thus far, about $182,250 of the amount has allegedly been recovered from a bank in Germany and that a person has also been arrested ad had his or her assets frozen over the deal. Well, fine and good… but this person was certainly not operating in isolation and the agriculture ministry and its collaborating partners owe us a clear explanation as to who did what and if there was any political influence or pressure exerted, then we deserve to know everything.
I was taken aback on the first day when I noticed that the blame was solely being heaped on the former principal secretary In the Ministry of Agriculture, Sandram Maweru. Well, he too had his day when he appeared before the committee as he pointed out that it was a collective decision to keep the deal under hush; probably fearing ‘vultures’ that might have sabotaged the botched deal.
Hopefully, the inquest by Parliament will help lay everything bare on the ground and that the recommendations to be made will be acted upon by those with mandate. We have witnessed on previous occasions how people that committed various transgressions slipped through the fingers of institutions such as Parliament whereas determinations by governance institutions that are tasked with providing oversight to Capital Hill are frowned upon.
I am hoping all is well among those in the joint committee that is overseeing this inquiry. Word from the grapevine had it that there are some within who tried to stir the waters but rumours they remain and we will regard them as such for the time-being. The job at hand, our honourable members, is of utmost importance to the larger population; so kindly leave personal egos aside and push towards the same direction.
It is a pity that while we are here busy focusing on this much-talked fertiliser deal involving Baakart Food Company, someone somewhere might be carrying out, undetected, a fresh scheme within the very government system with the aim of swindling Capital Hill more money. In fact, it is not just Capital Hill that is swindled but each and every Malawian who brings something to the kitty through the hard-earned taxes.
It is with this in mind that most Malawians, including yours truly, are waiting for the day when we shall see the authorities finally walking the talk in as far as sealing the loopholes to the financial taps is concerned. There have been so many scandals involving huge sums of money over the years but sadly, only a handful of them have come to their conclusive end and individuals personally held liable. Which is why on this fertiliser issue, Malawians are hoping that there will not be any sacred cows. We need to have each and every tambala returned and certainly justice must be served for those that might have deliberately placed a foot wrong.
Otherwise, we are not here to entertain any blame game as that will not provide us with the much-needed answers.
Move with sense of urgency on hunger
It is no fun, ladies and gentlemen, going to bed at night on an empty stomach or worse still waking up and not knowing where your next meal is going to come from. Such is how people in some districts in the country affected by hunger in this lean period, are living.
It is a whole different ball game when you are fasting for religious reasons but when you go for days without eating simply because you have nothing to prepare, it can be torturous.
I hear somewhere down in Chikwawa District, there are already some families that are surviving on boiled mangoes, for those that are lucky enough to have the fruits. This is not on, considering that we were warned long ago that about 3.8 million people would be affected by hunger hence we ought to have prepared well in advance for this. It could get worse because at the price maize is fetching on the parallel market (is it still parallel with Admarc out of the equation for now?).
I gather the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) has already started distributing food assistance and it is my hope and prayer that this process will be accelerated.
Stephen Dakalira is a seasoned Journalist who works as Times Group’s Online and Digital Executive Editor. He is also the Assistant Editor of The Sunday Times Newspaper, and author of Full Circle column which appears in Malawi News; all of these under the Times Group stable.
He has previously worked in key positions for some of Malawi’s key media institutions such as Malawi News Agency, Capital FM Radio and Star Radio (Now Timveni Radio).