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Parliament inquiry implicates George Chaponda

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A joint Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture and Public Accounts Committee has recommended that President Peter Mutharika should publicly censure Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, George Chaponda, for the role he played in the process of purchasing maize from Zambia.

The report on the inquiry was presented in Parliament yesterday.

Committee Chairperson, Joseph Chidanti Malunga faulted the role Chaponda played in bringing Transglobe into the maize deal.

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In the 29-page report, the committee says Mutharika should censure Chaponda for arbitrarily and wrongly using his influence to arrange for Transglobe to supply maize to Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) in violation of the country’s public procurement laws.

It says this action will affirm the government’s commitment to the rule of law and its zero tolerance to corruption.

“The commi t tee fur ther recommends that law enforcement agencies namely the Malawi Police Service and the Anti-Corruption Bureau investigate the conduct of the Honourable Minister with a view to finding out if his conduct did not amount to a misuse of public office,” Chidanti-Malunga said.

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Chaponda, who was in the chamber when the report was being presented, attempted to repond to the issues. He said it was out of order for the report to say that there was no crisis at the time the committee was purchasing maize from Zambia.

But Speaker, Richard Msowoya, stopped him, saying he had started debating the issue.

The House has since resolved that debate on the report be done today.

The report also recommends that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) must commence perjury charges against Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) Governor Charles Chuka and Secretary to Treasury, Ronald Mangani.

Chidanti-Malunga said that the committee was gripped with shock that Chuka and Mangani lied under oath as to when they knew about the contract between Admarc and Kaloswe.

In his testimony before the committee, Chuka said that he only knew about the Kaloswe contract after the media had started covering issues surrounding the transactions.

Mangani told the committee that he first became aware of Kaloswe contract on January 6 this year after the Admarc board had been briefed on the deal.

However, according to Malunga, the committee received evidence in form of an email titled ‘Kaloswe contract addendum’ that Madalo Nyambose, Director of Debts and Aid Management in the Ministry of Finance sent to Loius Loti on July 12 2016 and copied to Mangani, Admarc Chief Executive Officer, Foster Mulumbe and the then Admarc company secretary, the late George Bakuwa.

In the email, which Malunga read out in Parliament, Nyambose asked Loti to print the copy to the attention of Reserve Bank of Malawi’s Mr. Mathanga.

“This email was sent on the same day that RBM, PTA Bank and Admarc had met to discuss the terms of financing arrangement for the procurement of maize from Zambia. The committee thus found that contrary to their assertions before the committee, Dr. Mangani, Mr Chuka, Ms Nyambose and Mr Mathanga were aware of the Admarc-Kaloswe Limited contract as early as 12 July 2016.

“The committee thus concluded that the four mentioned officials had lied under oath on their testimonies thereby meant to mislead the committee. This, Mr Speaker, is very shameful and reveals that the scheme of reaping off Malawians went far ahead,” Malunga said.

He said the committee established that the public officers had no reason to lie except for their intentions to cover up gross misconduct either committed by themselves or by someone above them.

The committee has also recommended that Secretary for Agriculture, Erica Maganga, must answer similar charges of lying under oath, more especially on her response on the whereabouts of Chaponda at a time the Minister had gone to Germany in contempt of court.

The committee also found the influence of Grain Traders and Processors Association (GTPA) Chairperson, Grace Mijiga Mhango, in the procurement process very unusual as it is not constitutionally acceptable for private citizens to have such an influence on public procurement.

Mijiga Mhango identified Kaloswe and provided logistical arrangements in the deal.

Malunga then said law enforcing agencies, the MPS and the ACB should investigate Mijiga Mhango for her unusual involvement in the deal and thus determine potential corruption in her involvement.

According to the committee, Admarc officials were also forced to seriously flout procedures because they were under pressure from politicians as per testimony by Chaponda that “the house was on fire and they had to break the windows and doors to save the child”.

The committee has also faulted Admarc for backdating the contract with Zambia Cooperative Federation to June 17 2016, using single source method in maize procurement and simultaneously running two contracts on the same issue for four months thereby financially exposing Malawians.

The report has also recommended that Rashid Tayub of Transglobe Produce Exports Limited and Admarc officials be investigated on corrupt dealings.

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