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Kondwani Nankhumwa demands Lobin Lowe’s resignation

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Leader of the Opposition in Parliament Kondwani Nankhumwa has asked Agriculture Minister Lobin Lowe to resign within seven days if he does not resolve what he describes as the “mess” at the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc).

The Democratic Progressive Party vice president for the Southern Region has also asked the minister to explain how his ministry handled the alleged K30 billion miss-procurement of fertiliser through the United Kingdom-based firm Barkaat Foods Limited, to which government paid K750 million.

In a letter dated October 17 2022, Nankhumwa demands answers on whether Lowe consulted widely before closing Admarc.

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“I wish to find out whether your decision to dissolve Admarc was done before you were made aware of the audit that was carried out on the organisation, which exposed abuse of the organisation’s resources by management and the outgoing board. I also wish to know the level of consultations that were made with relevant legislative organs such as the Agriculture Committee of Parliament before the decision was made to dissolve the organisation.

“According to my sources at Admarc, its dissolution alone will cost government over K8 billion. Where is this money going to come from? Is government planning to send Admarc employees home and tell them to come later for their money?” he asked.

However, Lowe only announced that he had closed, and not dissolved, Admarc when he made the decision last month.

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On the fertiliser procurement scam, Nankhumwa demands names of officials who negotiated the botched deal on behalf of the country.

“Although your ministry has come up with an explanation in form of a press release to the effect that only K750 million was paid to the alleged UK firm, there are still glaring gaps that you need to address, especially about the procurement process that was used in this procurement gaffe.

“Normally, during procurements of such magnitude, so many entities are involved. I am talking about the PPDA [Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority], the Anti- Corruption Bureau (ACB), banks and the procurement committee of your ministry.

“Would you kindly furnish the nation with details of the procurement process, including key individuals who were responsible for negotiating this deal. Mr. Minister, I do not think I would be asking for too much if I demanded your resignation within the next seven days should you fail to address the above concerns.

However, Lowe declined to comment on the demands, saying he was yet to see the letter.

“I do not know if I have knowledge of that letter. I have not seen that letter,” he said.

In a statement, Ministry of Agriculture Principal Secretary Sandram Maweru said Barkaat Foods Limited failed to supply 25,000 metric tonnes of fertiliser after the government paid it K750 million but said the money was in the process of being recovered.

“SFFRFM [Smallholder Farmers Fertiliser Revolving Fund of Malawi] was asked to pay K750 million to lock the price, which it did. After pocketing the payment, the company terminated the contract. Barkaat Foods Limited failed to supply and consequently terminated the contract citing loss of production line at Yara UK and that they could no longer commit to supply the fertiliser.

“This advance commitment fee payment of about K750 million is under recall by Ecobank and will be received by the end of this month of October 2022,” the statement reads.

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