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Parley blasts NFRA over missing maize

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Dennis Kalekeni

Members of a Joint Parliamentary Committee Monday blasted National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) board and management over the missing of 13 truckloads of Strategic Grain Reserves maize which Admarc had bought for the NFRA.

This was after it has emerged that a transporter, Kachere Agriculture Trading, failed to account for 7,500 bags of maize which he was shipping from Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation depots to NFRA depots in Lilongwe.

According to committee members, the way NFRA board and management handled the transfer of maize from Admarc depots leaves a lot to be desired.

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First to appear before the committee Monday morning was NFRA Board members who, through their chairperson Dennis Kalekeni, told committee members that maize worth K112.5 million went missing through a transporter, Kachere Trading, who was one of the three firms hired by NFRA to transfer the maize. He said the other companies are Omar’s and Nzeru Za Abambo.

According to Kalekeni, Omar’s did not participate in the ferrying of the maize despite being given the deal because it was looking for an adjustment in transportation rates in the wake of the 25 percent devaluation of the Kwacha and a significant jump in the cost of fuel.

He observed that Nzeru Za Abambo only uplifted a fraction of the maize because it felt it could not proceed as it was making losses in the deal.

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According to Kalekeni, the case of the missing maize was discovered when some maize was being delivered in a van, which security officials at NRFA objected to, as it was not an appropriate transportation vehicle.

Kalekeni said the transporter was advised to transfer the maize into an open truck but that the transporter decided to go back with the van without returning to NFRA.

According to Kalekeni, days after the van was rejected, the transporter failed to deliver the maize, a development that prompted NFRA to conduct an audit which revealed that 7,500 bags were missing.

He said after realising that the maize was missing, the owner of the transportation company, Smollett Kachere, was arrested and released on court bail.

According to Kalekeni, Kachere was stopped from transporting any more maize.

“We are told that Mr Kachere has applied to management that he continues to transport the maize from Admarc to NFRA and that the missing maize be recovered from his outstanding money, currently standing at K64 million,” Kalekeni said.

He added that preliminary investigations have ruled out involvement of NFRA officials in the scam, a development that did not go down well with members of the joint committee, who felt he was shielding staff members.

The committee, through its chairperson Nicholas Dausi, then sent back NFRA Board members, asking them to prepare thoroughly so that they could answer all the questions posed by the committee.

And when NFRA management stepped before the committee, the organisation’s chief executive officer Brenda Kayongo told the lawmakers that NFRA had already paid Kachere K164 million for the 4,069 metric tonnes of maize transported and delivered to NFRA silos in Lilongwe.

Kayongo said NFRA was left with K64 million to pay the transporter based on outstanding invoices.

The committee has since directed NFRA management to halt all transactions with Kachere until the committee visits NFRA silos to ascertain the volumes of maize in the silos.

In the evening, committee members met former Admarc board chairperson Alexander Kusamba Dzonzi, who shed light on the procedure of uplifting maize from Admarc to NFRA.

The committee members also engaged Admarc management on the same.

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