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Treasury adamant on tractors

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Secretary to the Treasury, Ronald Mangani, has defied a directive by Ombudsman to make a public apology for duping Malawians in the controversial sale of at least 100 tractors obtained with a loan from Export Bank of India worth $50 million.

Ombudsman Spokesperson, Arthur Semba, confirmed in an interview on Sunday that the ultimatum on the issue had indeed elapsed.

“Currently, the Ombudsman is outside the country on official duties and we shall wait for her decision on what steps to take next in light of this development. This reflects more on the responsible institutions if such conduct is anything to go by,” Semba said.

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Last month, the Ombudsman issued a 30-day ultimatum which expired on Sunday November 13, that Mangani should apologise to the nation through a press statement which must be published in the media for three consecutive weeks.

In the report, Ombudsman Martha Chizuma Mwangonde also ordered Ministry of Agriculture officials to prepare reports on poor performance of the tractors and other equipment within the same prescribed period.

In an interview last week Thursday, Mangani could not commit as to whether he would comply with the directive and said he needed time before responding.

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“I am currently attending a meeting and I cannot tell you what the position of the ministry is,” said Mangani before cutting the line.

Secretary for Agriculture, Erica Maganga, said her office is already working on some of the recommendations highlighted in the report but said that the ministry is doing that on its own free will and not compelled by the report by the Ombudsman.

One of the recommendations in the report is that the Ministry of Agriculture should confiscate a tractor which has been personalised by Tanato Anderson from Liwalika Village in Machinga and allocate it to the nearest Agriculture Development Division.

The report also observes that the sale of the tractors was illegal and that it was the Ministry of Finance which decided that out of 177 tractors, 77 tractors should be distributed to ADDs and 100 should be sold.

Spokesperson for the Ministry of Finance Nations Msowoya could not say how much has been collected to date from the sale of the tractors which were also purchased by civil servants on loan.

“Expert evidence further indicates that the tractors bought were manufactured using archaic technology. The procurement process of tractors has all the marks of either illegality or irregularity. There are neither minutes of the Internal Procurement Committee that sat to award the contract to Apollo International nor documents of the bids that were considered.

“Almost half of the tractors are not functioning properly or have major faults. The access to them remains a challenge and future accessibility is not guaranteed. At the rate the hiring scheme is going, particularly cost of maintenance and frequent breakdowns, the tractors will not outlive the loan repayment period. In the end, the next generations will be repaying loans that neither they nor their ancestors benefitted from. The present generation is toiling on the farms while the future overburdened for nothing,” reads part of the report.

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