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Government sacks all Admarc staff

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Zachary Kasomekera

The board of directors for troubled Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) Monday wrote all members of staff, notifying them that the firm is implementing a 100 percent retrenchment exercise effective Wednesday.

The corporation’s head of human resources Ethel Zilirakhasu confirmed the development.

“I can confirm [that] the retrenchment starts Tuesday [today], January 31,” Zilirakhasu said.

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According to a circular which The Daily Times has seen, the development means today is the last day for the employees to work for the firm.

“The company will give three months employment contracts to some employees, especially those that were working as selected staff from February 1 2023, to help with the transition which the company will be completing,” the letter reads.

The letter further indicates that the employees that will be contracted for three months will receive their letters of contract employment within seven days from January 30.

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According to the letter, the government has committed to pay January salaries, pension areas and retrenchment packages.

Admarc Board Chairperson Zachary Kasomekera said in a separate interview that, as a way forward, the corporation will continue working with the skeleton staff that was maintained when the organisation was closed.

“We will start implementing the new structure starting from February 1. We will be updating the public on the developments,” Kasomekera said

Meanwhile, Agriculture Committee of Parliament Chairperson Sameer Suleman has welcomed the development.

“It’s good that the Admarc employees have now known their fate.

“However, the government should ensure that the people get their money in due course,” Suleman said.

However, economic commentator Velli Nyirongo said the move defeats the purpose of the government’s job-creation agenda.

“In a way, the government is admitting that it has failed to find a solution to problems affecting the corporation,” Nyirongo said.

Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences-based economist Betchani Tchereni said it will be interesting to learn about how the government intends to resuscitate Admarc.

“Any process that is going to save government resources should be commended but it cannot happen at the expense of the employees. The government should not contravene labour laws,” he said.

The Daily Times’ calculations indicated that, by the end of this month, the government will spend about K3.5 billion on five-month payments to Admarc staff that have been doing nothing.

This is so because Admarc’s wage bill stands at K750 million per month, according to figures presented recently by Admarc Board former chairperson Alexander Kusamba Dzonzi to the Agriculture Committee of Parliament.

On September 1 2022, former Agriculture minister Lobin Lowe shut down Admarc, citing high levels of corruption, theft and professional negligence at the State-owned grain trader.

Admarc is reported to have 4,063 salaried employees when it needs 1,500 members of staff only.

Recently, Secretary for Agriculture Dickxie Kampani said the government was duty-bound to pay Admarc staff.

He said until Admarc was restructured, the government would continue paying employees as they would still be employed by the Malawi Government.

“We are working on restructuring Admarc, a task that was supposed to be done by early this month. But, as things stand, we have no choice but to pay the people even though they are not working,” Kampani said.

The Ministry of Agriculture gave itself three months to conclude investigations and restructure the corporation.

Admarc owes commercial banks over K70 billion in unsettled loans.

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