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‘Politicking’ rocks AIP public inquiry

SENT BACK—Zamba and team leaving Parliament

MUNTHALI—It would be naïve not to interview the SPC

Divisions have rocked the Joint Parliamentary Committee which is investigating the alleged misprocurement and mismanagement of public resources in the 2022- 2023 Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP).

Some members of the committee do not want some of the people enlisted for interrogation to appear before the committee on political grounds, Malawi News has learnt.

The development has affected progress of the inquiry.

Yesterday, for instance, Secretary to the President and Cabinet (SPC) Colleen Zamba failed to appear before the committee due to the internal differences, which saw the members going into a vote.

Co-Chairperson of the committee Sameer Suleman confirmed of the wrangles. He complained that this will, in the long run, affect the credibility of the committee and the investigation.

According to Suleman, while some members wanted Zamba to explain the role of her office in the K750 million fertiliser scam, others feel the former SPC Zangazanga Chikhosi should be held to account instead.

On Wednesday, former Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Sandram Maweru implicated Chikhosi as the man at the centre of the 10,000 metric tonnes of fertiliser deal with Paramount Holdings, a contract which flouted procurement procedures.

“The SPC came but we had an in-house issue which had to be resolved by going into a vote. You know it’s a game of numbers so those who think the SPC should not be interviewed were in majority and she has been sent back,” Suleman explained.

He said as co-chairperson of the committee, he is concerned with what is happening, admitting that the inquiry has been politicised.

He cited the committee’s failure to interrogate Reserve Bank of Malawi governor Wilson Banda and officials from Ecobank on Wednesday as part of the political bickering.

He said the essence of the investigation is being diluted by some members of the committee whom he accused of not having the interest of Malawians at heart.

“The programme was set. There was no issue of additional stakeholders. For today’s case I am failing to understand. The current SPC was already here, and the K750 million issue which we are investigating has happened during her time,” he said.

On the second day of the inquiry on Wednesday, tempers flared in the committee’s postmortem meeting after Malawi Congress Party representatives in the committee accused their counterparts of asking what they termed inappropriate questions to those appearing before the committee.

In a separate interview, Zamba said she was ready to be interrogated and indicated that she is ready to come whenever they summon her again.

Political and governance analyst Makhumbo Munthali cautioned the committee members politicising the inquiry which he said they are carrying out on public trust.

“The Joint Parliamentary Committee inquiry investigations should be seen to be objective, impartial and should strive at achieving a saturation point where everyone connected to the issue or has some important information relating to the issue should be summoned and interviewed. It’s important that they avoid politicising the process,” Munthali said.

He said if the committee feels that inviting the former SPC will enrich the information gathering, they may consider doing so.

Speaker of Parliament Catherine Gotani Hara last week constituted the joint committee to investigate the anomalies rocking the AIP following a notice from the Ministry of Agriculture that it had been duped of about K750 million by a bogus fertiliser supplier from the United Kingdom.

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