Maize deal’s twists, lies
The Zambian Government has denied it entered into a deal with the Malawi Government for the purchase of maize, insisting they only facilitated the issuance of an export permit following a government-to-government agreement in June 2016.
Malawi Government officials have consistently said that the transaction for the purchase of maize, through the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc), was a government-to-government arrangement without the involvement of agents.
But various media sources such as Lusaka Times and the Zambian Observer quote Zambia Minister of Agriculture, Dora Siliya, as denying the involvement of her ministry in any alleged corruption over the maize deal between Zambia and Malawi.
She is reported to have made the clarification in a press statement following an announcement by the Anti- Corruption Commission of Zambia that it was probing the deal in collaboration with Malawi’s Anti-Corruption Bureau.
Siliya insisted that the Zambian Government was not involved in the procurement process but it had only assisted Malawi with an export permit following an export ban it had placed on maize.
According to the Zambian media, Siliya disclosed that the Malawian Government bought 100,000 metric tonnes of maize from individual farmers and not Zambia’s Food Reserve Agency.
“We allowed for the export to Malawi because the contract was signed before the ban on exports was effected. The contract was signed in June 2016 under a government-government arrangement to help Malawi with the commodity following a drought which only spared Zambia in the Southern Africa Development Community,” Siliya is quoted as saying.
“The Malawian Government identified an agent, the maize suppliers and also negotiated the terms without any input from the [Zambia] Government,” she added.
Her comments sharply contradict what various Malawi Government officials have insisted that Admarc bought the maize from the Zambia Cooperative Federation through the Zambia Government with a loan it obtained from the PTA Bank.
Further, according to the Zambian Observer, both ZCF Executive Director James Chirwa and Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda have claimed that no payment has been done to the maize that has already been ferried into Malawi because one of the terms on the contract was that Admarc will only start paying when ZCF delivers 10,000 metric tonnes.
Meanwhile, John Kapito, Executive Director of the Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama), yesterday waded into the controversy when he declared that the procurement of maize was above board following the body’s own investigations into the Malawi-Zambia maize deal.
At a press briefing at Cama’s offices in Blantyre, Kapito said Chaponda and Admarc Chief Executive Officer Foster Mulumbe were not involved in the alleged dubious procurement of maize from Zambia.
Kapito said Chaponda was only involved in the purchase of maize from within the country.
The purported Cama’s investigations, Kapito added, had established that the Malawi Government had paid neither ZCF nor Kaloswe Commuter and Courier Limited, the purported agent, under a loan obtained from the PTA Bank.
“As of January 10, 2017, Admarc and the Reserve Bank of Malawi [had] failed to pay [ZCF] because the supplier has failed to meet the requirements of the letter of credit that requires it to supply the 100,000 metric tonnes in tranches of 10,000 metric tonnes. ZCF only supplied less than 5,000 metric tonnes and their invoice for the payment of the supplied maize was rejected,” said Kapito.
He disclosed that on December 21, 2016, ZCF submitted an invoice for $528,025.26 for the 1,530.508 metric tonnes of maize it had supplied, which is below the required minimum threshold of 10,000 metric tonnes to trigger payment.
“So, it is wrong to say that someone has embezzled the money in as far as I am concerned; I can prove that beyond reasonable doubt.
“What we [propose] is that the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture should push that the money should be returned to the PTA Bank so that it is not a burden on us,” he said.
On the exorbitant selling price of maize of K250 per kilogramme, Kapito said Cama had established that Admarc is selling the maize it purchased locally.
“Admarc bought that maize at K231.60 average prices across the country from individual traders. It bought 106,558 metric tonnes and that what they are selling and that maize cannot be subsidised, it is being sold at a right price,” he said.
Kapito sentiments seem to echo Chaponda who stood firm in Parliament against pleas by opposition legislators on November 22, 2016 for the government to subsidise the price of maize because K12, 500 per 50kg bag was way beyond the means of a majority of Malawians for whom the government had obtained the loan.
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