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Rhino Chiphiko says he’s victim of political interference

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Alexander Kusamba Dzonzi

General Manager for the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) Rhino Chiphiko has for the first time commented on matters surrounding his suspension, saying he is a victim of political interference.

In an exclusive interview with Malawi News, Chiphiko said his conditions of service stipulate that he must be called for disciplinary hearing within four days in case of suspension, a thing which has not yet happened four months after he was suspended.

Admarc board suspended Chiphiko on May 20, 2022 on allegations that he authorised purchasing of his official vehicle a Nissan Patrol valued at about K107 million without the knowledge of the board.

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“During the 114th boarding meeting the very board which sanctioned my suspension approved that a vehicle should be bought for the position.

“And in my position the recommended car was a Prado TX but when we looked around it was found that the Nissan Patrol was cheaper, and all procurement procedures were followed.

“I was so surprised that I was being suspended for that particular reason, and I was looking forward really to appear before the disciplinary hearing but unfortunately I haven’t been invited until now,” Chiphiko explained.

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An earlier internal audit which Admarc’s Board of Directors sanctioned exonerates Chiphiko with regard to the purchase of the vehicle.

The audit report which was signed by Acting Head of Internal Audit Gilbert Nyong’onya on May 12, 2022 says the procurement of the Nissan Patrol was based on the 2021-2022 budget which included the purchase of vehicles and was approved by the Board of Directors.

“We, therefore, conclude that the GM’s vehicle was duly authorized by the Board of Directors of Admarc Limited and followed all laid down procurement and other procedures for such a purchase,” the report concludes.

But former board chairperson of Admarc Alexander Dzonzi in an interview faulted the audit findings, saying that is why they proceeded to suspend Chiphiko.

“The audit had a lot of anomalies, and we are not a passive board to take it wholesomely. That is why the audit by the external auditors unearthed a lot of things that our internal audit couldn’t,” Dzonzi said.

Dzonzi was recently quoted in the press saying that Chiphiko could not appear before Parliament as he was out of the country for medical attention.

On the other matters that he was suspended for, which is the decision by management to be paying staff salaries from the K2.1 billion which was borrowed from one of the local banks, Chiphiko said being relatively new in the company, he was not aware of the arrangement which he said was made prior to his hiring.

“As soon as I leant about it from one of the managers, I alerted the board and I suspended a couple of officials, but the board felt I was doing some funny things which was not the case,” Chiphiko said.

He complained that many were the times that the board interfered in his work and gave directives and made requests which he did not agree with, a development which in the long run spoiled the working relationship between the two parties.

Among other things, Chiphiko said he got numerous inquiries from Kusamba Dzonzi about maize exports and other things which he said did not fall under the board’s jurisdiction.

“Again, there were a lot of issues to do with allowances. They wanted to be meeting too often and that was not in line with corporate governance so I was refusing a lot of meetings. Some meetings were being planned for Mzuzu and I shot them down, and they were not too happy,” Chiphiko narrated.

But Dzonzi said Friday that his board was against any form of extravagance.

This comes a few days after the board of Admarc announced just before its dissolution that it would be retrenching all of the corporation’s employees.

Chairperson of the Agriculture Committee of Parliament Sameer Suleiman has since advised the government against the decision.

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