Fired Agriculture Minister, Lobin Lowe
* Chakwera simply confirmed what was always known by the public
* Malawians expected the State President to have already triggered the legal process
* To hold the various institutions and individuals that facilitated this illegal transaction to be held accountable
By Duncan Mlanjira
While thanking President Lazarus Chakwera for addressing the nation on matters related to abuse of public money on the procurement of fertilizers under the Agricultural Input Program (AIP), Consumer Association of Malawi (CAMA) contends that Malawians expected him to explain in detail how the “stolen money and not so much about the dismissal of the Ministers that committed the crimes”.
In his address on Tuesday, Chakwera fired Lobin Lowe as Minister of Agriculture and replaced him with Lands Minister, Sam Dalitso Kawale in what the President described as “serious problems in the agricultural sector that need to be fixed as a matter of urgency, in the face of which the food security of the country has been left in grave jeopardy”.
In his press statement issued on Thursday, CAMA Executive Director, John Kapito says Chakwera “simply confirmed what was always known by the public despite his failure to disclose the names of the beneficiaries of the stolen money such as the suppliers and bankers”.
“Malawians expected the State President to have already triggered the legal process to hold the various institutions and individuals that facilitated this illegal transaction to be held accountable.
“We expected the State President to demand and hold accountability from institutions such as Treasury, the Reserve Bank of Malawi, Financial Intelligence Agencies and the commercial banks for being accomplices in this illegal and pure theft transactions that have denied poor people access to affordable fertilizers.”
He thus maintains that Malawi has a number of financial controls and independent institutions “that would have detected this illegal financial transaction and it is wrong to assume and conclude that these illegal transactions started and ended at the Ministry of Agriculture alone without the knowledge of the State President and the other financial institutions considering the magnitude and importance of the program.
“Much as the President might wish to play ignorance and — if indeed the State President was not briefed or aware about this transaction — then we should be worried that Malawi is a fertile ground for illicit financial transactions.
“The million dollar question which the State President failed to address is how did the Minister and his delegation travel to the United Kingdom without his knowledge and clearance in Malawi? A Cabinet Minister cannot travel outside the country without being cleared by the State President.
“The President himself needs a lot of explaining about his role regarding the identification of the supplier and under whose instructions did Treasury and Reserve Bank facilitate the transfer of such huge sums of money to a foreign supplier and bank.
“This is beyond the capacity of the Ministry of Agriculture and therefore both the President, Treasury and Reserve Bank cannot distance themselves from these transactions.
“We are expecting the law enforcement agencies to carry an independent investigation and hold all the actors accountable.”
Kapito thus recommends that an independent financial intelligence investigation should be immediately constituted to be assisted by external financial intelligence experts “to quickly come up with a credible unbiased report and recover this stolen money”.
He further contends that Chakwera missed also an opportunity in his speech to explain to Malawians the many economic and social challenges that are effecting the lives of many Malawians such as scarcity of forex; fuel shortages; closure of many small scale and large industries; high unemployment rate and high rise in commodity prices, that include that of maize.
Other challenges Chakwera should have tackled include closure of Admarc markets and “the many outstanding cases of corruption like the Sattar cases which the President assured Malawians to expect swift action and it seems these matters on Sattar are now dusted and buried”.
Kapito goes on to accuse the President of continuing “to pick and choose what interests him to say in his speeches, which are simply meant to distract public opinion and attention on real issues affecting Malawians”.
“Malawians are still waiting from the State President to give an update on the cost of his trip to United Nation General Assembly (UNGA), including the list of his delegation. Malawians are also demanding an update or explanation on the implementation and effectiveness of the austerity measures that the State President had introduced three months ago.
“Mr. President, we request you to talk less and act more — speeches are useless if they are not backed by action and that is the challenge you face. On your own volition, you have several times promised cabinet changes or reshuffles.
“What we have noted so far is nothing close to a reshuffle, these changes do not add value or bring the change that we would want to see from a progressive and hardworking cabinet Malawians want a lean but hardworking cabinet.”
He reminds Chakwera that he is now into half of his term and he should prove to Malawians that he can do better to improve his own image and the lives of his compatriots.
“The Malawians you are talking to now are not the same people you spoke to during the campaign period. Malawians are now more intelligent and they can now tell the difference between a lie and truth and when you speak before them try and be honest.”