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Sameer Suleman refuses to ‘clear’ government over K30 billion AIP claim

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GANDA—We will make determination soon

It is up to Ministry of Agriculture officials to exonerate themselves, he tells inquiry

Sameer Suleman, chairperson of the Parliamentary Agriculture Committee, yesterday refused to clear the Ministry of Agriculture from the claim that it has been swindled of K30 billion in a fertiliser purchase deal.

Suleman, co-chairperson of a parliamentary inquiry into the 2022 Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) implementation, was facing his own inquiry yesterday.

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This came after former Minister of Agriculture Lobin Lowe, appearing before the inquiry last week, said Suleman was compromised as he had been involved in a foreign trip for the search of AIP fertiliser.

The committee therefore resolved to question its co-chairperson hence his appearance yesterday.

The claim that government has been duped of K30 billion in an AIP deal has been circulating in social media for months now, and Suleman has made the same allegation a number of times through the media.

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But government dismisses this claim.

Appearing before the inquiry, Suleman turned down the demand from the legislators, led by Ken Zikhale Ng’oma, that he should say the K30 billion claim is not true.

“What we are saying is that at the time we got information that K30 billion meant for AIP had been spent, this country had no single bag of fertiliser.

“Agriculture officials have so far told this committee that slightly close to K30 billion has been spent out of the K97.5 billion which was meant for AIP fertiliser. So, it is up to them to exonerate themselves. I was only reporting what our agriculture committee had been informed about,” he said.

He said it was not for him to clear government officials on the matter on their behalf.

On his being part of delegation to Egypt on AIP fertiliser hunting mission, Suleman said he had travelled in his capacity as chairperson for the agriculture committee.

“I accompanied government officials to Egypt. It was around April 3, 2022 that we left for Egypt for about four days on a mission to look for fertiliser manufacturers with reasonable prices to be used for the AIP.

“And I went there on the Speaker’s approval for an oversight function as the agriculture committee,” Suleman said.

He said he was not aware of an impending trip to the United Kingdom where officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and the Smallholder Farmers Fertiliser Revolving Fund of Malawi (SFFRFM) went to conduct due diligence on Barkaat Foods Limited, a company which duped the government of K750 million.

Conspicuously missing during the inquiry yesterday were some committee members from the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Suleman is a DPP Member of Parliament.

The inquiry has since concluded its two-week task but the committee said it will make special arrangements for those that needed to be interrogated.

Co-chairperson of the committee, Gladys Ganda, said they would soon make a determination on all matters that they probed during the two weeks.

In that period, the committee also inquired into the closing down of the Agriculture Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) and the missing of maize at the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA).

Speaker of Parliament Catherine Gotani Hara instituted the inquiry.

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