George Chaponda
George Chaponda

LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)-Parliamentary committee on budget and finance on Monday took a swipe again at the embattled Agriculture Minister George Chaponda for lying to the nation that Illovo Sugar Company had no capacity to produce maize despite the house nodding the contract.

The committee’s Chairperson Rhino Chiphiko made the accusation when responding to 2016/2017 mid-year budget statement which Finance Minister presented in the chamber on Friday.

This comes barely some days after joint Parliamentary committee on Agriculture and Public Affairs report on Zambia maize saga recommended for further probe on Chaponda, some agricultural officials and Admarc for being suspected of corrupt practices in the entire deal.

In his response, Chiphiko is also the main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) lawmaker  for Lilongwe City South West Constituency wondered as to why government failed to honor MK106 million contract with Illovo to produce maize of the same quantity sourced from Zambia at an exorbitant price of US$34.5 million (MK26 billion).

The committee suspected corrupt tendencies that prompted Chaponda to ignore the house nod on Illovo deal vying for external sourcing of maize.

The lawmaker told The Maravi Post outside the house that it unreasonable for the minister to lie to the committee that Illovo had no capacity to produce the maize for country.

“When budget and finance committee visited the company’s site, found out that Illovo had enough space, farm mechanization to produce the needed maize which disputed the Agriculture Minister claim that the company didn’t have capacity.

“Now with the Zambia maize saga, the committee suspect foul play for government failing to honor a simple deal with Illovo while preferring to external maize sourcing. This is how naïve and crooked this government is into.

“Illovo managed to put its house in order to produce maize but Chaponda and his team frustrated the company’s efforts”, observed Chiphiko.

The committee therefore asked the finance minister to rework on the botched Illovo deal that the coming winter and rainy growing season should allow the company to start producing maize locally.

In his contributions, People Party (PP) Spokesperson on Finance Ralph Jooma expressed sadness over the budget cut when micro-economic indicators show that cost of living still skyrocketing coupled with heavy domestic borrowing, high inflation rates among other.

General debate continues on Wednesday when members will ask the finance minister to justify the budget cut.

The revised national budget has been cut by MK20 billion from the initial estimates of MK1.1492 trillion to MK1.129 trillion.