Monday, May 27, 2024

‘Pharmacy fertilizer’ propaganda flops; ACB, et al vetted Malawi vs East Bridge Estate fertilizer contract


As the saying goes, once beaten twice shy. Given that the previous Minister of Agriculture, Robin Lowe, oversaw a transaction that resulted in the Malawian government losing money intended to purchase fertilizer when they were duped into a transaction with a UK company that sells meat products, some people believed that the current Minister of Agriculture, Sam Kawale, as smart as he is, could also fall into the same trap.

This time, the same names like the Member of Parliament for Blantyre, Samir Suleman, were behind the propaganda machine again. They accused the Malawian administration, and more specifically, the State House, of engaging in a fertilizer deal with a pharmaceutical company. However, the cool, calm, and collected Minister Kawale pledged to provide a thorough reaction to the media when the propaganda spread like wildfire due to the mainstream media platform it enjoyed. He has more than delivered on this promise, much to the silence and humiliation of those who support fake news.

The truth of the matter is that the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) contract, worth K128 billion, was actually signed by the Ministry of Agriculture with East Bridge Estates, a Romanian company. Propagandists nearly succeeded in persuading the people of Malawi that East Bridge Estates is a company that deals in medical equipment rather than fertilizer and that it was a UK-style version of the Butcher Company, which defrauded the government whose funds, MK750 million, the Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda has tracked and will be recovered in Germany.

On his part, Minister of Agriculture Sam Kawale downplayed the propaganda saying the deal was cleared by vetting institutions in the country. According to Kawale, such highly respected institutions in the country namely the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), the Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA), the Attorney General’s Office, and ministries of Trade and Finance as the institutions they engaged and who approved of this deal.

Sam Kawale, the minister of agriculture, dismissed the propaganda by stating that the contract had been approved by the revered national vetting institutions in the country namely the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority, the Anti-Corruption Bureau, the Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA), the Attorney General’s Office, and officials from the Ministries of Trade and Finance.

“We have followed all procurement provisions, and no law was broken… we did the assessment and ensured that they have a production line, and are able to supply,” Kawale told the local media.

The government, through the Ministry of Agriculture, reportedly offered East Bridge Estate a deal to deliver 600,000 metric tonnes (MT) of fertilizer for $124.5 million (about K128 billion), according to numerous reports in the local media. According to a commodity exchange/barter agreement, the Romanian company is supposed to supply 300 000 MT of urea and 300 000 MT of NPK under a contract that will last until July 24th, 2024.

The ministry and the company signed a Sale and Purchase Agreement on December 14 2022 and then a Commodity Exchange Agreement on March 23 2023 before issuing an addendum on May 18, 2023.

In the Romanian firm’s deal, the government will pay through the supply of farm commodities which include 250 000 MT of soya beans, 250 000 MT of groundnuts, 200 000 MT each of pigeon peas and maize, 50 000 MT each of rice and sorghum and 25 000 MT each of cotton and sugar.

Asked about the country’s capacity to supply those commodities, Kawale said an assessment showed that it is feasible.
“The Ministry of Agriculture did all assessments with the Ministry of Trade and the supplier. We analyzed everything and were satisfied that we can supply what they need, and still have left over to sell elsewhere,” he said.

The minister was, however, quick to state that the targeted AIP is not for the 2023/24 growing season.

“The funds for 2023/24 AIP are intact. We will be awarding contracts to about 15 companies very soon using the budgeted funds. The East Bridge fertilizer is not for this year’s AIP,” he pointed out.

On his part, Minister of Trade and Industry Simplex Chithyola Banda said his portfolio looked at the deal as beneficial as it would boost agricultural productivity.

“The intertwined kind of relationship which is built between the ministries because what happens to agriculture also affects trading and financing.

“If there is a good deal that has been initiated by the Ministry of Agriculture which will improve and increase agriculture production, it means, we will have more to generate enough revenue that can help run this country,” he said in a telephone interview on Saturday.

FIA senior public relations officer Grace Thipa also confirmed that they were involved in the deal assessment.
“I can confirm that FIA submitted a due diligence report to the Ministry of Agriculture,” she said.
Thipa, however, could not be drawn to reveal the content of the report, saying: “You may require the contents from the ministry.”

The company is expected to make its initial delivery of 50 000 MT of Urea on July 25 2023 while the last consignment of 50 000 MT each of Urea and NPK will be made on July 25, 2024.

And, Minister Chithyola signaled that it is the firm that will be the first to send its products. Now with this propaganda exposed, the propagandists are presumably back on duty to concoct yet another propaganda. However, Shire Times, is your partner in an effort to expose lies and feed you with nothing but the truth.

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