In a new twist to the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) maize saga, it has emerged that the firm contracted to transport the agency’s maize submitted bogus documents to win the multi-million kwacha tender.
NFRA board chairperson Dennis Kalekeni yesterday told the Joint Parliamentary Committee looking into the disappearance of maize worth over K112.5 million under contract between NFRA and Kachere Agriculture Trading that the contractor was among three companies given a ‘no objection’ by the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA).
He said in the course of investigating the missing 13 trucks, it was discovered that copies of blue books for the trucks Kachere Trading presented in its bid documents as evidence that it had capacity to transport the maize were fake.
Kalekeni said: “There were 13 vehicles reported to police together with their registration numbers and the police CID [Criminal Investigations Department] officer who came to appear before our investigative inquiry indicated that they had engaged Directorate of Road Traffic and Safety Services to authenticate ownership of the trucks and it was discovered by the police that none of those trucks belonged to Kachere Trading.
“Having gotten this information from the CID officer, the team that is conducting inquiry called for bid document for Kachere Trading and indeed discovered that indeed inside the bid document that there were blue books which the company’s owner, Smollet Kachere, presented as evidence of having the capacity to conduct the business of transportation of the maize.
“From the information we got from the police, we also took copies of the blue books to Road Traffic directorate and what is stunning is that none of the blue books presented by Kachere are genuine,” said Kalekeni.
He said the board will investigate the matter to see how issues of due deligence were conducted.
Kalekeni also alleged that Kachere, who was arrested over the missing of NFRA maize worth K112.5 million, asked NFRA to allow him to continue transporting maize from Admarc depots to NFRA strategic grain reserves.
He said Kachere proposed that the value of the missing maize be recovered from his transport contract as NFRA owed him about K64 million.
NFRA chief executive officer Brenda Kayongo told the committee that PPDA approved contracts for three companies, including the one for Kachere Agriculture Trading.
She said the contract with Kachere Agriculture Trading is worth K250 million and NFRA already paid the company K143 million for the transportation of 4 069 metric tonnes of maize.
Kayongo said NFRA is remaining with a balance of K64 million to pay Kachere.
Speaking in an interview later, Kayongo said she was not aware of the fake blue books that Kalekeni talked about.
Joint Committee co-chairperson Nicholas Dausi asked NFRA board to go back to the drawing board and dig more into the mess. He said the board will have to present to the committee concrete evidence on the issues
PPDA spokesperson Kate Kujaliwa said she needed to consult on the matter.
Government allocated K697 million to NFRA to transport its maize from Admarc depots to NFRA strategic grain reserves.
NFRA contracted three companies to transport the maize.
However, two companies were not comfortable with the value of the contracts following a 25 percent devaluation of the kwacha while Kachere Agriculture Trading continued with its contract.