A legal analyst and the civil society say the report on maize saga presented to the President yesterday is a serious indictment of George Chaponda’s role and that of Admarc officials.
They have since asked President Peter Mutharika to fire Chaponda, Admarc chief executive officer Foster Mulumbe and his involved staff.
The Anastasia Msosa led inquiry into the maize purchase from Zambia presented its report to Mutharika at Kamuzu Palace. The report, among others, faults Agriculture Minister Chaponda’s involvement in the deal, saying it was suspicious; hence he must be probed by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB).
The report also faults Admarc officials for flouting set procedures, recommending that they should face a disciplinary action.
But South Africa-based legal expert Danwood Chirwa said in an interview yesterday Chaponda and Admarc officials should be fired if they fail to resign.
“ There port documents evidence of gross negligence and incompetence by Admarc officials and the minister in the way they negotiated the procurement of maize and of blatant disregard of procurement law. In and of themselves, these findings are a serious indictment of the minister, affected Admarc officials, and arguably the government as a whole. The report also confirms the public’s suspicion of possible corruption on the part of the minister as regards how he carried out his duties.
“The most responsible thing to do is for the minister and all Admarc officials impugned in the report to resign. If they do not, they must be fired immediately,” said Chirwa.
He said the President should not maintain someone whose moral turpitude has been called into question.
Chirwa asked the President to uphold the Constitution and “demonstrate that he cares about the rule of law by dismissing the minister without delay and allowing the crime fighting agencies to do their work freely.”
Feeling vindicated by the results of the inquiry following unrelenting calls for Chaponda’s resignation, civil society organisations (CSOs) have also told the President to fire Chaponda within seven days.
The CSOs , which obtained an injunction in January restraining Chaponda from executing his duties until the probe
is concluded, and had the order lifted by the Supreme Court of Appeal last Friday, warn that they will mobilise people to demonstrate if Mutharika first one was to hold negotiations with his counterpart to persuade the Zambia Government to allow the importation of maize by Malawi, while the second was as a special envoy to persuade the Zambian Government to lift a maize export ban that government had just imposed, it added.
However, the commission found that in the role as an envoy, Chaponda went beyond the two official mandates and bordered on interference with the procurement process.
Says the report: “First, the minister attempted to influence Admarc as to who should supply maize under the ZCF contract from the Zambian side.
The report notes that Chaponda personally asked Admarc to buy maize from Transglobe, a Malawian company with maize stocks in Chipata.
“This request was rejected by Admarc, which had signed a contract with ZCF. Admarc confirmed that Transglobe indeed approached them on several occasions on this matter. Secondly, the minister advised Transglobe to go and meet officials in the Ministry of Agriculture in Zambia to negotiate an export permit to supply part of the 100 000 metric tons of maize that was agreed in the contract between Admarc and ZCF,” adds the report.
Chronicling several questionable developments, the report says when Chaponda went to Zambia as a special envoy, a Tayub of Transglobe was also in Zambia meeting with officials in the Ministry of Agriculture.
The commission found two notable things about this development: the first being that the export ban was lifted and the second being that the Ministry of Agriculture in Zambia issued export licences to both ZCF and Transglobe, splitting the contract tonnage of 100 000 metric tonnes that was contracted between ZCF and Admarc in equal share of 50 000 metric tonnes with Transglobe.
“This development cannot be attributed to coincidence. It raises suspicion in relation to dealings between the minister and Transglobe. One can, therefore, not rule out the possibility of corrupt dealings between the two parties,” the report states.
Mutharika, after studying the report, presidential press secretary Mgeme Kalilani told Nation on Sunday yesterday that State House happily notes that no public money “was either stolen, mismanaged or lost” in the maize deal that was anchored by tough PTA Bank conditions that have not been met by any maize supplier.
The bank’s Letter of Credit (LC) says money will be released only after 10 000 metric tonnes of maize from Zambia is exported to Malawi.
But the maize suppliers have fallen short of the tonnage, in that only 4 000 metric tonnes have been received in Malawi.
Receiving the report earlier, Mutharika commended the commissioners for working hard and serving the nation over an important issue of great public interest. He promised to study the report keenly and to consider the recommendations contained in it.
Meanwhile, Chaponda could not respond to Nation on Sunday’s need to interview him over his reaction to the report.
“He is in a meeting and we will phone you as soon as the meeting is over,” an aide to the minister told us; but there was no such promised response as the paper went to bed.
On his part, Admarc chief executive officer Foster Mulumbe yesterday said he was yet to read the report; hence, could not comment.
“I am yet to read the contents of the report, but all I can say is that I cannot correct what has been said in the report. I will give a proper response when I have read the report,” said Mulumbe.
Quizzed whether, following the findings, he was going to resign, Mulumbe remained adamant, repeating that he will only respond after reading the report.—Additional reporting by Joseph Mwale