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Members of Parliament leave for Zambia Tuesday

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The joint parliamentary committee that is probing the suspicious procurement of maize from Zambia is leaving Tuesday for the copper-rich nation despite facing clearance delays by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

The committee’s Chairperson Joseph Chidanti Malunga confirmed in an interview yesterday that the committee has been cleared and that they were scheduled to leave for the country early Tuesday.

He said the trip comprises eight out of 10 members of the committee.

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The lawmakers were still stuck in the country even though the initial arrangement was that they should leave over the weekend.

The trip to Zambia follows a two-week local public inquiry which targeted different stakeholders including officials from the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc)— which was mandated to procure the maize from Zambia—Treasury, FDH Bank, Office of the Director of Public Procurement (ODPP) and the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM).

The inquiry, which exposed several inconsistencies on areas like the tonnage that the supplier exported into Malawi, the dates when contracts were signed and terminated and whether some key officials were monitoring the procurement process, took place at Parliament building in Lilongwe.

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Earlier, Chidanti-Malunga said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs demanded a schedule of their trip to Malawi’s western neighbour before the committee leaves and detailed information of some of the people they intend to meet.

This was after the committee had written the ministry for clearance but, apparently, the initial request lacked some information.

“I am told that they wanted us to provide information in terms of our schedule, who we are going to meet and the time we will be meeting the officials in Zambia, which will be provided,” Chidanti- Malunga said.

He said upon submission of the requested information, the committee was optimistic that they would be cleared by the end of Monday.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Rejoice Shumba, confirmed the delay and said the requested information is vital as the meeting is between two countries.

Shumba said the committee sent a letter that failed to provide time of departure, people they intend to meet and the number of delegation to leave for Zambia.

“In the letter that was sent to us, they did not indicate when they would like to depart and the people that they would like to meet because as the ministry we have to alert the parties and book appointments as government to government,” she said.

She further said once the information is provided, the ministry will be able to clear them.

The maize from Zambia was supposed to be bought using a Parliament-approved line of credit from the PTA Bank amounting to $34.6 million (approximately K26 billion).

Meanwhile, it has emerged that Admarc has cancelled two contracts which it had initially signed with suppliers from Romania and South America.

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