Yesterday, President Chakwera made a shocking but very necessary move of dropping one of the Malawi Congress Party veterans, Lobin Lowe, whom Chakwera appointed as Minister of Agriculture in his cabinet.
Making the announcement, the visibly angry president whose patience appeared to have exhausted remarked that his leadership owes it to the country to deliver on his agenda with or without political party politics including the much-touted Tonse Alliance.
“The time for keeping people as Ministers who allow incompetence, corruption and wastage to happen on their watch simply because the people doing it are their friends or members of their parties or alliance partners is past. So my message to everyone I have appointed so far is this: Malawians deserve results, and they elected me to deliver those results and I will see to it that those results are delivered with or without you, because I am not there to serve a party, or a Minister, or an alliance. I am here to serve Malawians,” Chakwera said.
Lowe is undisputed lover of cattle (and perhaps its products) as evidenced in his delivered effort to erect an artistic sculptures a goat and a cow and calf on the Agriculture Ministry premises at Capital Hill in Lilongwe. It appears the trust for cows was so much that he even trusted those trading on cow meat in London with a fertilizer procurement deal.
The Malawi Embassy officials in the United Kingdom (UK) did due diligence assignment in vetting the authenticity and legitimacy of Barkaat Foods Ltd on three different occasions by three different officials, all of whom established and reported that the company is not fit for the fertilizer deal except selling animal steak, bones and intestines.
Following the due diligence study, the embassy sent a spirited warning to the Agriculture ministry against dealing with the company of which premises one of the officials found bet trading taking place aside selling frozen animal chops.
The Minister ignored the embassy advice and reportedly sent his personal assistant, Gracian Lungu, to discuss the deal with the supposed middleman. It is further on record that the former Minister (Lowe) also went for a trip to necessitate the deal of which benefit and good interest on Malawi stands questionable.
Pursuant to the defiant deal, a total of US$750,000 was remitted to the company on two separate occasions, US$181,250 paid on 13th May 2022 and US$543,750 paid on 14th June to two different bank accounts, advised by the supposed dealer and held in two different countries all of which are outside the UK, a transaction that President Chakwera has described as strange to the established government procurement procedure and says exhibits gross negligence and incompetence.
The Agriculture Ministry, acting through the Fertilizer Revolving Fund (SFFRF), bypassed all government procurement agencies including the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets (PPDA) authority; the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and Government Contracting Unit (GCU) among others.
Meanwhile, the Government through the office of the Attorney General has engaged the governments of the two countries that hold the accounts to which the payments were made, one of which is German which has already frozen the fluke firm’s bank account and ready to remit the money back to Malawi.