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Committee rues Maizegate loan

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The joint parliamentary committee probing the botched maize deal has hinted that it will be recommending to Parliament on what should be the way forward on a Letter of Credit (LC) from PTA Bank worth $34.5 million in the wake of reports that currently, the country has enough maize and the crop in the field looks promising.

Parliament last year authorised borrowing of the money to purchase 100,000 metric tonnes of maize following food shortage which threatened lives of at least 6.7 million people across the country. The funds are now in possession of a bank representing Zambia Cooperative Federation (ZFC) where it is alleged that some unscrupulous officials from Malawi and Zambia had connived to purchase a few tonnes out of the mentioned 100,000 metric tonnes and share the loot.

The committee has also, during its ongoing inquiry, expressed fear that figures in the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (Mvac)report may have been exaggerated so as to create a panic need for more resources for the wrong reasons.

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Chairperson of the committee Joseph Chidanti-Malunga admitted in an interview yesterday that the committee regrets the loan adding that now the issue of getting back the funds is critical.

“The letter of credit is irrevocable which means as a country, we are in for it. The only way is to brainstorm and find the most suitable use of it. I cannot say much now to avoid pre-empting the recommendations of our report,” Chidanti-Malunga said.

On his part, Chairperson of Public Accounts Committee (Pac) of Parliament, Alekeni Menyani, while agreeing that the food situation in the country is no longer urgent said his committee is also waiting for the final resolutions by the Agriculture Committee before giving its input.

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Spokesperson for Ministry of Agriculture, Hamilton Chimala, refused to comment saying Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) officials were better placed to speak on the matter. But our efforts to talk to Spokesperson for Admarc, Agnes Chikoko, proved futile as she did not pick her phone despite several attempts.

But in a separate interview, Spokesperson for Ministry of Finance, Alfred Kutengule, asked for a questionnaire and also time to consult on the possibility of government cancelling the facility and was not ready with a response as we went to press.

Malawi Congress Party Deputy Secretary General, Eisenhower Mkaka, said in an interview that it is better for government to renegotiate with PTA Bank and cancel the loan, even though it is likely to be at a huge cost, than losing millions of dollar to “callous leaders.”

“The DPP government ostensibly created so many layers in the alleged transaction in order to create loopholes that could be used for fraud and corruption. As is apparent, the maize that was to be procured will now not serve its intended purpose. The vendors have enough to cushion against the mishap. Thus, we are much better cancelling the facility,” Mkaka said.

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