Long wait for fertiliser probe results
When Malawians learned, late last year, that some government officials had engaged a United Kingdom-based firm to supply 25,000 metric tonnes of fertiliser meant for the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP), they heaved a sigh of relief that, for a change, the government was taking the 2022-23 agricultural season seriously. It later turned out that the firm involved was not in a business related to fertiliser supply, prompting the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to announce that it would probe the issue. But, as MATHEWS KASANDA writes, investigations seem to be moving at a snail’s pace.
Over two months after the ACB announced that it had instituted Investigations into the failed AIP fertiliser deal, which saw the government losing K750 million, indications are that it will be some time before results are out.
This is because despite pledging to conclude the probe by the end of January this year, nothing concrete seems to have happened.
However, the graft-busting body maintains that they are at an advanced stage with the investigations.
Early last year, it transpired that the Ministry of Agriculture paid K750 million to Barkaat Food Company in the United Kingdom as part of payment for the supply of 25,000 metric tonnes of fertiliser for AIP.
However, the deal flopped.
On November 10 last year, ACB Director General Martha Chizuma told a Joint Parliamentary Committee that they has instituted investigations into the issue.
Chizuma further indicated that they were hopeful that the investigations would be completed by the end of January.
“Whether it is K750 million or K30 billion, the bureau is gonna investigate the Barkaat procurement [deal],” Chizuma said.
And, in a response to The Daily Times’ questionnaire, the bureau’s spokesperson Egrita Ndala said they have made progress on the probe.
“The Anti-Corruption Bureau has made good progress with the investigations into the AIP fertiliser procurement deal. The investigation is at an advanced stage,” Ndala said.
The National Anti- Corruption Alliance has since commended ACB for the investigations, indicating that any taxpayers’ tambala should be accounted for in the country.
Alliance chairperson Moses Mkandawire said the ACB should put the interests of Malawians first.
“Once the findings turn out to be revealing, it will be important that prosecution should follow based on the information that will have come through.
Malawians are looking forward to that, given that the amount involved is substantial,” he said.
In November, Chizuma said ACB had set two teams to investigate the K750 million AIP deal as well as the Paramount Holdings AIP deal.
According to her, after the K30 billion issue came out, the bureau set up two teams to investigate the Barkaat Food Company deal and Paramount Holdings.
“Considering how crucial these AIP issues are, we thought that we should not take them through the normal investigation procedures or teams but to put up special teams that should look into this matter,” Chizuma said.
Chizuma also indicated that every single-source, or high value, procurement deal has to go through ACB but that, in the Barkaat deal, nothing of that sort happened.
At the moment, Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda is fighting to get the money back.
Mathews Kasanda is a journalist who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from University of Malawi (The Polytechnic).
In 2015, Media Institute of Southern Africa awarded him the Best Print Media Education Journalist of the Year accolade.
He joined Times Group Newsroom in September 2019.