By Iommie Chiwalo
The Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI), is demanding an official communication on the decision to cancel the intention to award contracts in the ongoing fertilizer procurement in the 2022/23 Affordable Input Program(AIP) which Small holder Farmers Fertilizer Revolving Fund of Malawi (SFFRFM) issued on October 24, 2022 on the basis of glaring price discrepancies.
In a letter signed by CDEDI Executive Director Sylvester Namiwa and addressed to Agriculture Minister Sam Kawale, the organization says what is contained in the currently cancelled intention to award contracts notification is a clear case of organized crime to loot, plunder and rip off unsuspecting taxpayers in broad-day light.
Apart from demanding an assurance that due diligence processes will be conducted in the awarding of the contracts and the implementation of the whole AIP exercise, CDEDI has given seven days to Minister Kawale to respond or face unspecified action.
Namiwa has put it to light that even when there is such a notification, still there is no official communication to validate its contents.
“CDEDI has tried to get an official communication through you Hon. but to no avail. When contacted, the SFFRFM Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Richard Chikunkhuzeni was equally waiting for an official communication on the same from your office,” says Namiwa.
He has since sampled out some contracts that were intended to be given to some firms which in simple mathematics the figures are not adding up.
For example, the CDEDI Boss cited Crack Hardware and General Dealers which was initially awarded 2,345.31 tones with a total amount pegged at MK5,017,963,000.00 an equivalent of MK2, 139,573.44 per ton, which is equal to MK106,978.67 per 50-kilogram bag.
He also brought to the attention of the Minister about Chipala Investments which in the said cancellation was awarded a total tonnage of 4,934.80 with a total contract value of MK4,720,171,852.50.
“This gives us a MK956,507.22 per ton. This means Chipala Investments is charging Malawians MK47,825.36 for every 50-kilogram bag of fertilizer. And Kidoti Holdings Limited has been awarded 4,527.15 tones amounting to MK3, 590,025,985.00. This translates to MK792, 999.12 per ton, which is equal to MK39,649.95 per 50-kilogram bag of fertilizer,” says Namiwa.
Based on variations in pricing mechanism, Namiwa has wondered as to why government is paying different prices for the same 50kg bag of fertilizer, and as high as MWK100 thousand.
“It is very clear that entities that have nothing to do with fertilizer business have been awarded contracts according to the said communication. A closer look at the list has revealed that some of the companies and individuals that have been awarded these contracts are Malawi Congress Party (MCP) sponsors and sympathizers,” says Namiwa.
He has since cautioned the Agriculture Minister to tread carefully considering that the AIP borders on the life-line of the poor of the poorest.
“Therefore every move you take in this area will not go unnoticed let alone unchecked, since it is an open secret that at play is the taxpayer’s money,” he says.
As a sign of organised crimes within Malawi government, Namiwa says it is very clear that some people sat down and organized themselves to loot public funds even after issuing a notice of contracts awarding cancellation.
“The fact that this notice was paid for in the daily papers it means it is legitimate, unless you Hon. Minister come out in the open to declare the cancellation of these contracts,” he said.
CDEDI has since demanded that the Minister of Agriculture make a public statement to declare the cancellation of the contracts as well as informing Malawians about individuals who sat down and planned to share their taxes in the above setup.
“And that in the event of any lawsuits emanating from the cancellation of these botched up contracts, then those who connived to steal the taxpayers’ money should be held personally liable for their actions or inactions,”
Parliament through joint committee is also questioning Agriculture officials on the same with most of the revelations shocking the tax payers to the extent that the office bearers are failing the basics.