HH explains corruption in PF government

UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema

UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema

Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the Press.

I am delighted to have this great opportunity to address the nation through you.

At the outset of the Patriotic Front (P.F.) administration, Mr. Michael Sata made a pronouncement that his administration would be allergic to corruption.

This pronouncement in UPND’s view was meant to re-invigorate the Levy Mwanawasa fight against corruption.  We anticipated that this pronouncement would immunise the PF cabinet against corruption.

To our amazement, the P.F. cabinet has been the most corrupt since the re-introduction of multi-party democracy in Zambia.  Never in the history of this country has a sitting Republican Vice President and the custodian of Justice (Minister of Justice) and Chief Executive of the ruling party accused fellow Cabinet Ministers of being corrupt and of being tribalists.

It must not be forgotten that earlier on, two senior members of cabinet, Defence Minister, Godfrey Bwalya Mwamba and Justice Minister, Wynter Kabimba accused each of being corrupt.  The wise have told us that ‘there is no smoke without fire’.

The sad reality is that Mr. Sata has failed to show political will to fight this vice of corruption.  Instead he is on record hindering the work of the Anti-Corruption Commission.  Mr. Sata has instructed the ACC not to investigate his Ministers without his knowledge and approval.  We wish to put it on record that Mr. Sata’s remarks to the ACC are misplaced and lack legal basis.

Today’s press briefing will focus on the corruption and gross cheating (bufi) going on in the agricultural sector.

1    Fertilizer procurement from Saudi Arabia
During the MMD rule, Mr. Sata and the P.F.  were strong critics of single sourcing.  We have come to understand now, that all that loud criticism by Mr. Sata and the PF was mere hypocrisy.  We would like to put on record that single sourcing, the purchase of 50,000 tonnes top dressing fertilizer from Saudi Arabia, Saudi Basic Industries Corporation without open tenders being put out to the general public to compare pricing with local sources and other international sources is GRAND CORRUPTION.

We are aware as UPND that the prevailing market price of top dressing fertilizer at the time of procurement was US$330 while the Minister of Agriculture Bob Sichinga informed the nation that government purchased fertilizer from Saudi Arabia at a price of US$388 (Post Newspaper -17 October, 2013).  So for 50,000 tonnes government has overpaid by US$2,900,000.  This is clear waste of public resources and possible theft.

We would like to notify the nation that the price of US$388 per tonne given by Hon Bob Sichinga does not include port charges, cost of finance, logistics, rail freight and road haulage.  So the landed cost of this fertilizer is humongous!  The government inputs are more expensive than the private sector and therefore there is no justification for Ministry of Finance intervention.  Clearly from the above, there were flaws in the tendering process and pricing.  We expect the Anti-Corruption Commission to move in investigate this scam and bring the PF culprits to book.

Serious Concerns
The total Urea fertilizer required for Fertilizer Input Support Programme (FISP) is 97,000 metric tonnes.  Whilst the government has single sourced 50,000 metric tonnes from Saudi Arabia, the arrangement for the balance of 47,000 metric tonnes have not been made public.

On 16th October, 2013, Mr. Bob Sichinga is quoted as saying the government is targeting to complete the delivery of subsidized inputs by end October, 2013.  Mr. Sichinga was speaking during the launch of Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) and NATSAVE asset loan scheme.

Typical of the deception and misleading statements from the Minister.  The Minister assumes that the Zambian public is gullible.  We are at the end of October, 2013 and the delivery of fertilizer is not complete.  Kalomo has not received any to-date end of October, 2013.

Clearly, given the logistical challenges which are well documented, Zambians should brace themselves for more excuses from the Minister.  The reckless statements and pronouncements assuring the nation that everything is under control when last minute U turns are the order of the day can only spell disaster for the coming season.

2    Maize Marketing
The Minister informed the nation that the government would procure 500,000 metric tonnes of maize from small scale farmers as strategic reserve from June 2013 through the FRA.  We were told that government would put in place measures to ensure that farmers would be paid within fourteen (14) days of delivery to designated FRA depots.

The marketing exercise by FRA could not commence until first week of August due to lack of funds to pay the farmers.  The marketing season was extended to October, 2013 because of late start.    The Minister confirmed in a statement to Parliament that 407113 metric tonnes of maize from 1,231 satellite depots had been purchased by FRA.

The value of the purchased grain was K529.25 million and K111 million or 20% had been paid to farmers while the balance of K418.242 million awaited funding.

Clearly the government had made no provision for funding FRA purchases and has been typically improvising.  After their sweat, farmers have been short changed and are unable to buy inputs for the current farming season.  The Minister indicated that frantic efforts were being made to pay all farmers by 31st October, 2013.  We are concerned that the Minister of Agriculture is not making any effort to ensure that all farmers are paid by 31st October, 2013.

3    Maize/Fertilizer Barter System

On June, 2013 the Minister announced that government has introduced an exchange system of fertilizer and maize with small scale farmers.  Speaking at a press briefing in his office, Mr. Sichinga said the programme would be run jointly by FISP and FRA.  Four 50Kg bags of maize will be swapped with two 50 Kg of fertilizer.

The Minister said government procured fertilizer would be exchanged with maize to generate 230,000 metric tonnes of white maize.  Despite being advised the programme could not work because of the unavailability of top dressing fertilizer and the high prices for maize obtaining in the open market.

Secondly the infrastructure and modalities had not been put in place and tested.  As of 16th October, 2013 not a single bag of maize has been delivered to FRA warehouses.  The programme is a complete failure and demonstrates the capacity of Ministers to mislead the country.  The Ministers is making commitments that he is not able to deliver on.

Banks that extended credit to FRA for procurement of maize the previous year 2012 have still not been paid.

4    E-Voucher
The government was concerned with poor distribution of FISP fertilizer.  To encourage private sector participation PF indicated that the E-Voucher would be introduced this year to level the playing field.  The pilot program would cover 10 productive districts (Kalomo, Choma, Monze, Mazabuka, Mumbwa, Chongwe, Kabwe, Chibombo, Kapiri Mposhi and Ndola).

The private sector was expected to finance and position 50,000mt of fertilizer under this scheme to cover 241,000 farmers that were ear marked to receive inputs under E-Voucher.

Training programs and workshops for stake holders were held at great expense.  A tender for the supply, delivery installation and commissioning of the FISP Electronic E-Card voucher system and ICT equipment was advertised on Monday July 15th, 2013 in the Daily Mail.

Despite numerous assurances from the Minister and officials the government did a complete U turn and publicly announced the suspension of the E-Voucher program on 10th October, 2013.  The reason given were that the “necessary logistics and electronic systems were not in place” (Refer to the Times of Zambia article titled Government Suspends E-Voucher System posted on 10th October, 2013).

Typical of the PF Government and Minister Bob Sichinga the announcement was made very late in the year with onset of the farming season.  To date the government has not announced or informed the nation on what modalities will be put in place to cater for the affected 241,000 farmers in the ten (10) districts.

The silence can only spell doom for the affected farmers.  Once again the Minister has lived up to his propensity to mislead, deceive and failure to deliver.  This is a worrying characteristic inherent in the PF government that is repeatedly being played out with serious consequences.

Hakainde Hichilema
President – UPND