Wheels of the usually controversy-dogged Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) have started moving with over 100 suppliers bidding to sell government the 150 000 metric tonnes of fertiliser required this year.
The Ministry of Agriculture has confirmed that technocrats are currently reviewing the bids but documents we have seen show that the banned Mulli Brothers Limited (MBL) is among the top 10 where they performed least, and top two in some lots.
Meanwhile, stakeholders such as the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and donors have indicated that their eyes are wide open to nip in the bud any malpractices that have bedevilled Fisp over the years.
The fertiliser bids
The Ministry of Agriculture opened this year’s bid documents on June 3 2013 for the supply of NPK and Urea fertilisers to Chirimba in Blantyre, Kanengo in Lilongwe and Luwinga in Mzuzu.
An official compilation shows that in total, government expects supplies of some 75 000 metric tonnes each in both Urea and NPK which, according to the ministry’s publicist Sarah Tione, should be delivered to the three sites by the first rains.
Under the Chirimba NPK lot, some 70 companies and individuals have bid for the supply of some 34 395 metric tonnes.
The top 10 for Chirimba in descending order are; Sky Holdings, Agro Commodities, Optichem, Mulli Brothers, TMK Trading, Libu Investments, Multiple Trading, Transglobe, Farmers World Limited and AGAS, according to official evaluation documents.
The positions are due to variations in unit prices in US dollar terms.
For example, in the top five, Sky Holdings wants to supply some 2 500 metric tonnes at $600 (MK200 million) per unit, Agro Commodities 5 500mt at $670 (MK223 780 million), Optichem 5 500mt at $710 (MK237 140 million), Mulli Brothers 6 500mt at $711 (MK 237 474 million) while TMK Trading are bidding to supply 7 500mt at $722 (MK241 148 million) to Chirimba Depot.
Government wants supplies of up to 30 915 mt of NPK to Kanengo Depot where some 83 companies are competing.
The top 10 in descending order for Kanengo NPK supplies include; Sky Holdings, Agro Commodities, Chagunyuka General Dealers, Mulli Brothers, Produce Mart Investments, Das Investments, Multiple Trading, Transglobe, Farmers World Limited and Agas.
The top five arranged through their respective quotations per unit in US dollar terms are charging $604.20, $670.40, $675 and the last two are at $723 per unit.
Government expects suppliers to sell them 9 690mt of NKP for Luwinga Depot where some 37 companies and individuals have been reviewed for possible award of the contracts.
Among the top 10 are Agro Commodities bidding for 4 000mt at $680.30 (MK227 220.2 million) per unit, Mulli Brothers 2 000mt at $731 (MK 244 154 million), Export Trading 4 000mt at $764 (MK255 176 million), Multiple Trading 1 000mt at $770 (MK257 180 million) and Nyiombo bidding for 3 000mt at $773 (MK258 182 million).
The other five are Optichem bidding for 4 000mt at $775 (MK258 850 million), Farmers World 2 000mt at $780 (MK260 520 million), Paramount Holdings 4 000mt at $782 (MK261 188 million), Nasfam 1 500mt at $784 (MK261 856 million)and Exagris fighting for 500mt of NPK at US$784.40 (MK261 989.6 million).
For Urea, government wants 34 395mt to Chirimba where some 86 are bidding, 30 915mt to Kanengo where 70 companies are competing and 26 are fighting for some 9 690mt for Luwinga.
Top 10 for Luwinga are Agro Commodities, Rab Processors, Paramount Holdings, Mulli Brothers, Export Trading, Nyiombo, Lords Best Collection, Farmers World Limited, Nasfam and Exagris.
For Kanengo, the first 10 include Sky Holdings, Rab Processors, The A Team Agency, Agro Commodities, Mphasa Wholesalers, Kulima Gold, Paramount Holdings, Transglobe, Farmers World and Mulli Brothers.
Ranking to 10 for Chirimba Urea tender are Sky Holdings, Agro Commodities, Chagunyuka General Dealers, Kulima Gold, Rab Processors, Transglobe, Paramount Holdings, Farmers World and Mulli Brothers.
Meanwhile, MBL, which government has banned over criminal allegations levelled by Justice Minister Ralph Kasambara, has cried foul.
“We know we are among the lowest bidders but we are not sure if we will get anything. But it’s unfair because they have not charged us with any offence,” said chairperson Leston Mulli.
But according to Chief Secretary to the Government Hawa Ndilowe, MBL is banned because they mis-supplied in their last contracts.
Nonetheless, asked if Mulli is allowed to bid, Ministry of Agriculture’s publicist Tione said: “Please note that bidding for Fisp fertiliser is open and everyone is allowed. Also note that once evaluation of bids is done, successful bidders and the general public will be informed in time.”
While the ministry expects that fertiliser be supplied to the three depots and various selling points before first rains, they are yet to tender for transportation of the commodity.
“Transport and fertiliser are done differently [and] for transport it’s not yet done,” said Tione.
But with or without hurdles en route to the targeted 1.5 million poor smallholder households getting the commodity, donors who have been part of the whole process so far, say they expect a fraud free Fisp this season.
Said Norwegian Ambassador Asbjørn Eidhammer in an e-mail: “We expect all stakeholders, be they suppliers, sales personnel, transporters, monitoring staff or local chiefs and development committees, to conduct themselves with the greatest integrity to avoid fraud.”
Eidhammer also expects “to see the timely delivery of fertiliser, both into the country and to the local market outlets, so that farmers are able to retrieve the inputs before the plantin2g rains start.”
“In case any malpractices do occur, we encourage people to promptly report the matter by using the Anti-Corruption Bureau’s toll free number, especially set up for this purpose,” he said.
On the other hand, the Irish, engaged in the weekly coordination and preparation meetings with the Ministry of Agriculture, expect “that fertiliser of good quality will be procured at a lower cost, deliveries of fertiliser will be tracked and voucher security improved.”
“We expect that the efficiency measures agreed with the Government of Malawi will improve the delivery of the programme in a transparent and timely fashion,” said Irish Embassy second secretary James Sherry.
Apart from direct support into Fisp, the Irish also provide support to the ACB to monitor the implementation and contribute to preventing corrupt practices.
Meanwhile, ACB, which operates a toll free number that citizens may call to report complaints on Fisp, said this week the “bureau will intensify its prevention programmes in relation to this year’s programme.
“The Bureau will continue collaborating with Ministry of Agriculture, Admarc, Police and the civil society organisations (CSOs) to ensure that this year’s Fisp is a success. We have worked on the challenges we faced as the bureau last season and we expect a better performance this season,” said senior public relations officer Egrita Ndala.
Last season, ACB received 104 complaints in relation to Fisp, 63 cases have been investigated whereas 16 of them are at prosecution stage in various courts.
Further, ACB completed prosecuting two cases while 23 are still under investigation.
The Ministry of Agriculture has indicated that government will use satellite tracking system to track all vehicles carrying subsidised fertiliser as one way of minimising incidents of diversions and theft.
The 2013 Fisp is worth K60.1 billion.