Tractorgate ruling haunts Parliament


By Macdonald Thom:

The February 2019 Supreme Court of Appeal ruling on farm equipment which the government bought using a $50 million (K40 billion) loan from the government of India, resurfaced in Parliament yesterday.

Members of Parliament (MPs) faulted the way the government introduced a Bill seeking authorisation to borrow and receive $150 million (K112 billion), which they said did not comply with a 28-day notice.


After the Ombudsman took the issues of the equipment to court, some of which were tractors, one of the directives the Supreme Court issued was that all loan authorisation bills should only be subjected to the waiver of notice under Standing Order 126 after a debate of the justification given for such a waiver.

Soon after the K112 billion loan Bill was announced, Leader of Opposition, Lobin Lowe, on Tuesday asked if it was in order for the MPs to discuss the Bill when it had not met the 28-day notice requirement before it was tabled.

“There has to be a 28-day notice before the Bill is read. The Bill was circulated last week,” Lowe said.


Second Deputy Speaker, Aisha Adams, initially ruled that although the Bill was circulated last week, it was gazetted over 28 days ago and told Finance Minister, Joseph Mwanamvekha, to table it.

Mwanamvekha said the Bill comprises a loan of $144,000,000 (K108 billion) and a grant of $6.2 million (K4.5 billion) from the International Development Association (IDA) to finance electricity access project.

Mwanamvekha said under the project, there will be cost-effective, priority investments in grid electrification, supplying to households living in close proximity to existing distribution infrastructure.

He also said the project will involve distribution of Light Emitting Diode (Led) bulbs to selected households.

But before the MPs started debating the Bill, Lowe stood again, insisting that the 28-day notice had to be adhered to.

“Honourable Second Deputy Speaker, money bills are very sensitive. Even if the Bill was gazetted 28 days ago, we need to consult,” Lowe said.

A heated debate followed and Dowa East MP, Richard Chimwendo Banda, said Mwanamvekha was not supposed to table the Bill.

Leader of the House, Kondwani Nankhumwa, said the Standing Orders Lowe quoted provides for a waiver of the 28-day notice.

Lowe later said Mwanamvekha should start the process again.

It was after Mwanamvekha had started with a request for a waiver that the MPs accepted and debated the Bill before passing it.

Speaking on behalf of Malawi Congress Party (MCP), Lilongwe Mpenu MP, Eisenhower Mkaka, said the government should respect the pronouncement by the court.

He, however, said the bill is important.

“Economic development of any country is powered by available energy. We need to provide electricity to our people. However, we need to depoliticise the intended project. Can we, for once, treat Malawi as one under this project?” Mkaka said.

Mangochi Malombe MP, Misolo Kapichila, who spoke on behalf of United Democratic Front, said there was a lot that has to be improved in the implementation of such projects.

According to Mwanamvekha, 500,000 households are expected to benefit from the project and electricity access is expected to improve from 11 percent to 30 percent by 2023.

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