Chaponda – Wild accusations, I did not pocket any bribe

LILONGWE (Malawi NewsNow)- Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Dr George Chaponda has claimed he is a victim of “wild accusations” in the procurement of maize from Zambia by Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc), saying Malawi cannot go far with such conduct.

Chaponda made the claim when he appeared before the joint committee of Parliament probing maize procurement from Zambia.

“It is unfair that I have become the victim when I was not involved in the nitty-gritty of the financing. It is unfair for me to be alleged to have pocketed K9.9 billion because of people misunderstanding the difference between $345 and $215. I think this country cannot go far if such wild accusations can be made,” he said.

Chaponda described as unfair allegations that he had a cut in the $13 million (about K9.9 billion) difference of the sale of maize by suppliers from the neighbouring country.

“I feel this has been a waste of time to tell you frankly. The amount of money that has been used on this could have helped the common man out there,” he further said.

“Two, I think this committee is contrary to Section 152 of the Standing Orders because when going to Zambia you did not take the whole committee. Three, because of this there has been lack of objectivity in certain instances. That is my personal assessment,” he said.

Chaponda explained that when Admarc reported that they did not find a supplier even after Zambian government assurances, he intervened by seeking the indulgence of Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu who allowed the lifting of the maize ban for Zambia Cooperative Federation (ZCF) to supply maize.

“When the contract was entered into with ZCF, the financial deals were not under my mandate, those were done with the Ministry of Finance where it was agreed that it would be $345 per tonne and a Letter of Credit was established. As you know, a Letter of Credit is the safest procurement process because you are not given the money,” he said.

Chaponda conceeded that the decision to buy maize was done in haste when he likened the maize shortage last year to a house on fire with a child inside requiring breaking of doors to effect the rescue.

“When examining this case, examine it like a house is burning and a child is inside. The government was under panic to provide humanitarian maize and commercial maize to those who could afford to buy. You must understand that the whole Southern Africa did not have maize; Zimbabwe, South Africa had no maize and they were all looking to Zambia,” he explained.

On the ZCF and Kaloswe contracts and termination, Chaponda said he was only aware of the ZCF contract and only learnt about Kaloswe from news reports.