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Pac sends back Auditor General

Public Accounts Committee (Pac) of Parliament has said it will do all it can to get all information on disposal of farm machinery bought using a $50 million loan from Export and Import Bank of India.

The disposal of the farm equipment, dubbed Tractorgate, was the subject of a 2016 investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman, whose report made several recommendations.

Some of the recommendations are yet to be complied with.

Pac Chairperson, Ken Kandodo, Tuesday said the committee expects to get to the bottom of the whole issue.

“I am very hopeful that the process we have started today, through the Public Accounts Committee, is going to make a big difference because we are going to interface with all the stakeholders that were involved in this transaction,” Kandodo said.

Officials from the Office of the Ombudsman appeared before Pac in the morning followed by One Village One Product officials in the afternoon.

“By the time we finish this process, committee members will have a good idea of what happened. They will be in a position to make recommendations that will move the whole conversation forward,” Kandodo said.

Before officials from the Ombudsman made their presentation on the issue, acting Auditor General, Thomas Makiwa, who led the National Audit Office (Nao) team, left the venue of the meeting.

It was later learnt that Makiwa was asked to leave as he is among the people who purchased the tractors.

Kandodo confirmed the development.

“I had to do it because he is one of the people that benefitted from the disposal [of the farm equipment]. I felt that it would be good that he recused himself, which he gladly did and he empowered his senior [members of] staff to represent the office,” Kandodo said.

Ombudsman Martha Chizuma did not attend the meeting but her officials brought a video recording on the issue to the meeting.

In her address, Chizuma said key recommendations of the 2016 report have not been honoured.

“We recommended that there should be proper audit on lines of credit from India. We also recommended that there should be proper account of money collected from the sale of the machinery and [that] the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development should give a comprehensive report on the condition of the tractors,” Chizuma said.

Apart from the $50 million 2011 loan, other loans were $30 million (2008) and $76.5 million (2012) from the same bank.

“It is up to the committee to ensure that the other directives are adhered to. The people to repay this money are in the constituencies and yet they cannot access the tractors,” Chizuma said.

Chizuma said she was engaged in other duties in her role as one of Malawi Human Rights Commission commissioners.

Pac accepted her apology and a team comprising Deputy Director of Research, Civic Education and Documentation, Felix Masekesa, Chief Investigations Officer, Alinafe Malunga and Deputy Director of Legal Services, Chipiliro Mangulama, took questions from the Members of Parliament (MPs).

The MPs expressed concern over delays in auditing the three credit lines from India.

But Nao Director of Regularity Audit, Gerald Pute, said they experienced challenges.

Officials from Greenbelt Authority, Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development and Ministry of Agriculture, will also appear before the committee.

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