HomeLocal NewsMillers in US$22m grain scandal

Millers in US$22m grain scandal

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BY TAURAI MANGUDHLA
ZIMBABWEAN millers are at the centre of a heated dispute involving a US$22 million grain purchase and supply tender deal in Malawi.

The Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) reportedly signed the now-contested deal with Malawi’s Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) without following laid-down procedures.

Information at hand indicates that an agreement to supply GMAZ with 100 000 tonnes of maize worth US$22 million is being disputed after it emerged that it was signed by Admarc chairman, Alexander Kusamba Dzonzi and not a management representative as required by the law in that country.

The deal has sparked controversy in Malawi, with that country’s Parliament said to be questioning it.

Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera has reportedly consulted his Finance minister Sosten Gwengwe to probe the matter amid reports his country is also faced with a shortage of grain, and cannot afford to export.

However, indications are that the deal will sail through with deliveries expected starting this month and up to the end of July given that it had been cleared by Malawi’s top offices in Agriculture.

Contacted for comment, the Malawi Treasury chief Gwengwe said: “I am in IMF [International Monetary Fund] negotiations, please talk to Admarc.”
Dzonzi could, however, not be reached at the time of going to print.

Suspended Admarc chief executive Rhino Chiphiko declined to comment, saying: “I have been suspended from work and, therefore, cannot speak for Admarc.”

Chiphiko was suspended for allegedly purchasing an official luxury vehicle that is above Admarc approved budget and specifications.

GMAZ national chairperson Tafadzwa Musarara yesterday said the deal was above board before claiming that they were being challenged by a clique of middlemen in Malawi whom he said were in the habit of profiteering from tenders through inflating prices and demanding kickbacks.

“GMAZ met the Malawian Minister of Agriculture and successfully sought the requisite approval to procure 100 000 metric tonnes from Admarc Limited. GMAZ proceeded to meet Admarc CEO, chairman and other board members and successfully concluded the supply agreement. At all material times, the Admarc CEO was present, including at the signing ceremony that was done at Sunbird Vincent Restaurant,” Musarara said in an interview.

“GMAZ members have an aggregate annual revenue of US$12 billion and have the necessary wherewithal to transact directly with any supplier in the world. We see no commercial purpose to buy maize from Admarc via middlemen.

“We are aware that some unscrupulous grain traders are mounting a desperate campaign to soil this transaction. However, GMAZ welcomes any other grain traders with their own stocks to engage us (and) our contract with Admarc remains in subsistence and we are proceeding to execute it.”

This comes as Zimbabwe and other African countries lose billions annually to botched tenders often benefiting a few corrupt government officials and powerful politicians.
Zimbabwe requires 2,2 million tonnes of maize annually, 1,8 million for human consumption and the balance for stock feed.

If the maize tender deal is cancelled, the development will spell doom for the country’s millers who are depending on the imports to stay afloat following a poor summer rainfall season that affected many grain farmers.

Zimbabwe’s poor grain harvest forced government to open the borders for registered millers to import 400 000t of maize.

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