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MRA disagrees with Foster Mulumbe

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Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) Commissioner General, Thom Malata, has said 4, 210 metric tonnes of maize are recorded in MRA’s system to have been imported into the country from Zambia by the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc).

Malata appeared before the joint parliamentary committee of Agriculture and Public Accounts at Parliament building in Lilongwe where he tendered his testimony in relation to the procurement of maize from Zambia by Admarc.

His disclosure that 4, 210 metric tonnes of the staple grain are recorded in MRA’s system contradicts an earlier testimony by Admarc Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Foster Mulumbe, who said before the same committee that Admarc had imported 4, 512 metric tonnes from Zambia.

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Currently, it is not known where the difference of 302 tonnes came from and the joint committee has vowed to pursue the matter further by inquiring from other stakeholders that are said to have played a role in the procurement process.

Said Malata in his testimony: “4, 210 is what the system is showing as having passed through our Mwanza Border. That is the cumulative total of the tonnage from the 150 tracks that ferried the maize into the country. That is what our data is showing.”

Asked what he made of the discrepancy that is there between his testimony and that of Mulumbe, Malata said there could have been other sources of the grain which MRA did not record.

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“We are using the information that we have in our system because that is what is available to us,” said Malata.

For at least two times, he denied having any other knowledge of the tonnage that Admarc brought into the country apart from 4, 210 tonnes.

Malata also courted controversy when he told the joint committee that MRA had pre-cleared the whole 100, 000 tonnes which Admarc had declared it would be importing.

Member of Parliament (MP) for Blantyre City West, Tarcisio Gowelo, just like other members of the committee, said the lawmakers were also worried that MRA might have been duped in the process since there were some documents from the supplier which did not seem authentic.

“There are some documents that are not stamped or signed. We are trying to find out whether MRA was not duped in the process,” said Gowelo.

However, Malata maintained that he believed MRA had taken all the necessary measures it is required to take to ensure tax processes are followed.

In an interview after the meeting, Chairperson of the joint committee, Joseph Chidanti Malunga, said the discrepancies are worrying.

“The Admarc CEO was here yesterday and he told us something that is different from what we have been told today. There are several discrepancies which we will be probing as we continue meeting different other stakeholders,” said Malunga.

He added that while Mulumbe had told the committee that the corporation would be liaising with the PTA Bank–from where the funds for the maize purchase were sourced–so that it should pay the supplier for the quantity that has been imported into the country, MRA stressed that release orders which would compel the bank to make the payment would only be released after the whole tonnage is imported into the country.

As it stands, no more maize is going to be imported by Admarc in relation to the contract with Zambia Cooperative Federation (ZCF) because the agreement expired on 31 December last year.

Earlier in the day, the committee also heard testimonies from officials from the Ministry of Finance who were led by Director of Debt and Aid, Madalo Nyambose.

Nyambose also did not seem to have convinced the committee with her testimony such that the committee cut short the meeting and informed her that it would be summoning Secretary to Treasury, Ronald Mangani, who was not available during the meeting.

Meanwhile, the joint committee is expected to continue hearing testimonies from other stakeholders including officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, FDH Bank, AHL and others from Zambia.

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