K563m botched AIP deal funds recovered

K563m botched AIP deal funds recovered

Malawi Government has recovered the remaining $543 750 (about K563 million) that was frozen in a Germany bank as payment for the botched K750 million Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) deal.

Communication The Nation has seen shows that the money was being transferred into the account of the Smallholder Farmers Fertiliser Revolving Fund of Malawi (SFFRFM), which suffered fraud after making a payment through a United Kingdom-based butchery that acted as an intermediary.

Nyirenda: I can confirm now that the matter has been concluded

In an e-mail to Attorney General Thabo Chakaka-Nyirenda, Munich Senior Public Protector in Germany, Florian Weizierl ,said the money was transferred but might take some days to reflect in the SFFRFM bank account.

Reads the e-mail in part: “I am very happy to inform you that just few minutes ago, the transfer of the amount of 516.975,21 euro to the account of the Smallholder Farmers Fertiliser Revolving Fund of Malawi was initiated.

“Of course it might take a few days until the amount will appear on the account.”

Nyirenda, who is in Germany for the same matter, confirmed the development in an interview yesterday, saying: “I am currently in Germany on the same issue. I should be able to provide more details when I am back in the country. I can confirm now that the matter has been concluded.”

Meanwhile, accountability and rights pundits have called on government to strictly follow procurement procedures to avoid such cases. They have also demanded action against those involved in the deal.

In an interview yesterday, Human Rights Defenders Coalition chairperson Gift Trapence said matters around the deal should be a big accountability lesson to the government.

“Malawians want value for money which is their taxes. This should not only be a lesson, but those suspected to have flouted the procedures should be accountable by facing the law,” he said.

Public expenditure tracking expert Mavuto Bamusi, in a separate interview, said while the recovery is good news, officials and the responsible minister at the time need to explain why they carried out such a bogus transaction.

He said: “The refund does not take away the wrong-doing. All those that took part and approved the transaction must be brought before the law in line with Public Finance Management Act.

“It is clear that this was an act with intent to defraud taxpayers and such an act must be punishable. It is a pity that those involved are walking scot-free presumably because they are connected to the ruling party.”

Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency executive director Willy Kambwandira described the recovery as a sigh of relief, but urged government to explain to Malawians how it intends to use it.

“Moving forward, proper procurement procedures must be followed all the time. We demand transparency on use of the recovered money so that it is not abused again,” he said.

Fidor Bank Ag of Germany reported the deposit of an equivalent of K750 million on June 14 2022 as suspicious and authorities in Munich froze the account in question.

Nyirenda said the account was deemed suspicious because it was only opened in May 2022 and belonged to an individual Andrei Grunbaum who was under investigation for alleged fraud.

On October 13 2022, former Ministry of Agriculture principal secretary Sandram Maweru said SFFRFM had a contract with Barkaat Foods Limited of the United Kingdom for the supply of fertiliser for the 2022/23 AIP.

The botched deal irked President Lazarus Chakwera who on October 25 2022 sacked then minister of Agriculture Lobin Lowe and his deputy Madalitso Kambauwa Wirima for purportedly failing to provide leadership. Wirima has since been reappointed into Cabinet as Minister of Education.

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