The state President, Dr Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera has embarked on bringing sanity in his government as he has fired the Minister of Agriculture, Lobin Lowe and his Deputy Madalisto Kambauwa Wirima for creating the problems in the ministry related to organisation of the Affordable Input Program.
The Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture and Irrigation accused the Ministry of Agriculture of letting down the nation on food security by keeping keeping the lid tight on implementation status of this year’s Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP).
Food security and this year’s AIP, committee chairperson Sameer Suleman made the allegations that the government has lot K30 Billion on the fertilizer deal.
Reacting to the development, during the national address delivered St the Kamuzu Palace, Chakwera announced the reshuffle in the ministry arguing that there was gross incompetence.
Chakwera said that are serious problems in the Agricultural sectors that need to be fixed as matters of urgency adding that the food security in the country has been left in great jeopardy.
“Even though there is still time to resolve the problems, there is simply no way this can be done by the same careless leadership that has failed to fulfill its mandate of the sector. The [Agricultural ] sector that is the backbone of our economy and the basket of millions of Malawians,” said Chakwera.
He said over six months ago at the very start of the financial year, he publicly instructed officials from the ministry of Agriculture to ensure that all arrangements of the distribution of fertiliser under this year’s Affordable Inputs Programme but the officials have failed to beat the target as they were told to do it by September this year.
“It is a failure that I consider to be completely unacceptable. Additionally, our internal inquiry to the cause of this has revealed that there is incompetence and gross negligence in the ministry,” he added.
He continued to say that the findings revealed that the ministry through Smallholder Farmers Fertilizer Revolving Funds, engaged the British company as an agent to secure fertiliser from the manufacturers without conducting the necessary financial, business, and time money laundering and legal due diligence to ensure the company’s credibility and Capacity.
According to the Malawi’s leader, the findings also revealed that the fund proceeded to pay the [British] Company and agency fee of USD725,000 in two instalments. He said one instalment was paid on the 13th of May, amounting to USD181, 250 and another payment was made on the 14th of June amounting to USD543, 750 all without any credible evidence that the company had any credibility or capacity to secure the fertilizer.
It was also revealed that at the request of the company, Smallholder Farmers Fertilizer Revolving Funds made the two payments into two separate accounts in two different countries outside UK. And yet, the SFFRFM proceeded to effect the suspicious method of payment without question.
“Both contract and payment of the company were done without following the proper procurement procedures as need of the p
Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA), no the Government Contracting Unit, No Anti-Corruption Bureau, were engaged to properly vet the process as required by law.
“Considering that the volume of fertilizer that the ministry was tasked to procure will he large and worthy millions of Dollars, a team of Officials was dispatched to UK to determine the company’s credibility and Capacity to deliver the product and it is from that mission that the ministry erred in judgement,” Chakwera explained.
Termination of the contract, recovery of the two payments are the issues that the government has identified that needed to be addressed urgently.
“I instructed the office of the Attorney General to pursue the recovery of the USD725,000 and the latest in that pursuit is that one country’s Central Bank has agreed to facilitate the return of the first payment and has already received from us the necessary documents to do so.
“Similarly, the receiving Bank of the second payment has frozen the funds is processing the document that we have submitted for the funds to be transferred back to Malawi,” quoted Chakwera while addressing the Nation.
Meanwhile, Dr Chakwera amass appointed Sam Kawale as the new minister of Agriculture and he has vowed to continue making changes in his cabinet.
Chakwera said he wants his cabinet to deliver so that his government serves Malawians who elected him as President.
“I am here to serve Malawians and I will do so no matter who tries to spread lies about me. Malawians deserve results and they elected me to deliver those results, and I will see to it that those results are delivered with or without you, because I’m not here to serve a party, or a minister I’m here to serve Malawians,” said Chakwera.
“These reforms will make sure that the 4 million households that need government interventions are streamlined to various social support programmes according to their needs, by using the Unified Beneficiary Register (UBR) and National Identity Cards,” He said.
The President further said the new targeting system will ensure that every household on the 4 milllion is served by different interventions tailored to their need and capacity instead of lumping everyone under AIP.
According to Chakwera, the reforms have come in after a proof that a new and more effective AIP is needed urgently for the fact that despite the successful distribution of subsidized fertilizer to millions in 2020 and 2021, there are still 3.8 million Malawians who are food insecure in 2022.