* Kawale is a serious man — I know he will deliver. He brought a lot of innovations at Ministry of Lands
* Being a noble person, he shouldn’t fall in the trap of being absorbed in the system
* Time is a savage — even the noble can be changed through trappings of power
* I am worried about the Ministry of Lands — it’s one of the most rotten ministries where we needed Hon. Sam to head too
By Duncan Mlanjira
The choice of Sam Dalitso Kawale as Minister of Agriculture, replacing fired Lobin Lowe, has been well received by the public following what President Lazarus Chakwera 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.
On social media, the public described as a good replacement having performed well as Minister of Lands, with Nyirenda Laston saying: “Kawale is a serious man — I know he will deliver”.
Kate Phelire Mhone hopes that Kawale, being a noble person, he shouldn’t fall in the trap of “being absorbed in the system”, indicating that time is a savage — even the noble can be changed through trappings of power.
Marcus Auberd said: “Much as I applaud the appointment of Honourable Sam Kawale as Minister of Agriculture, I am worried about the Ministry of Lands — it’s one of the most rotten ministries where we needed Honourable Sam to head too.”
Others described Kawale as “the only man standing in the Cabinet having made significant strides in the Ministry of Lands in which he brought a lot of innovations, saying “the title deeds were taking very little time as compared to the past”.
Chisomo Seleman was of the opinion that the Lands Ministry “needs soberness and integrity”, adding that Kawale had a big vision going on already.
However, others implored on the President to look beyond the political posts but assess the roles being played by the technocrats such as the Principal Secretaries, saying Kawale and his deputy Madalitso Kambauwa couldn’t have committed the irregularities Chakwera used to fire them — that the technocrats lent in a hand.
But Dave Kambani hinted that Lowe and his deputy should take the blame because “it happened under their watch” and that “the bulk [of blame] stops on leadership”.
In his address to the nation of Tuesday evening, Chakwera said even though there is still time to resolve the serious problems in the agricultureal sector, “there is simply no way this can be done by the same careless leadership that has failed to fulfil its mandate over the sector — a sector that is the backbone of our economy and the bread basket of millions of Malawians”.
He reminded the nation that at the very start of the financial year some six months ago, he publicly instructed officials from the Ministry of Agriculture to ensure that all arrangements for the distribution of fertilizer under this year’s Affordable Inputs Programme were in place no later than September.
“They have failed to do this, and it is a failure I consider to be completely unacceptable. Additionally, our internal inquiries into the causes of this failure have revealed a disturbing litany of bad decisions that smack of incompetence and gross negligence.
“To begin with, the findings reveal that the Ministry, through Smallholder Farmers Fertilizer Revolving Fund, engaged a British company as an agent to secure fertilizer from a manufacturer without conducting the necessary financial, business, anti-money laundering and legal due diligence to ensure the company’s credibility and capacity.
“Secondly, the Fund proceeded to pay this company an agency fee of US$725,000 in two installments, one installment payed on the 13th of May amounting to US$181,250 and another paid on the 14th of June amounting to US$543,750 — all without any credible evidence that this company had any credibility or capacity to secure fertilizer.
“Thirdly, at the request of the company, Smallholder Farmers Fertilizer Revolving Fund made the two payments into two separate accounts in two different countries outside the United Kingdom, and yet they proceeded to effect this suspicious method of payment without question.
“Fourthly, both the contract with and payment to the company were done without following proper procurement procedures, as neither the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA), nor the Government Contracting Unity (GCU), nor the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) were engaged to properly vet the process as required by law.”
Considering that the volumes of fertilizer the Ministry was tasked to procure would be large and worth millions of dollars, Chakwera said “a team of officials was dispatched to the United Kingdom to determine the company’s credibility and capacity to deliver the product, and it is from that mission that the Ministry’s error in judgement and blatant disregard of procedures became apparent, as the suppliers’ capacity turned out to be without merit”.
“In view of all this, we identified three issues that needed to be addressed urgently. The first issue was the termination of the contract, which was done. The second was the recovery of the two payments amounting to US$725,000 dollars made to two separate accounts in two different countries, which I instructed the office of the Attorney General to pursue.
“The latest on that pursuit is that one country’s central bank has agreed to facilitate the return of the first payment and has already received from us the necessary documents to do so. Similarly, the receiving bank of the second payment has frozen the funds and is processing the documents we have submitted for the funds to be transferred back to Malawi.
“I know that there is a Member of Parliament in the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture who has publicly told the country that the amount paid is K30 billion and that this money has been stolen, which is simply false.
“And I know that this lie has created a lot of anger and fear about whether funds for AIP are still secure, which is understandable. The truth is that once these processes we have initiated with the authorities in the two countries are complete, the US$725,000 that was paid illegally as an agency fee will be recovered in full, and the Treasury will issue a public notice to inform you of the same.”