By Prince J. Ndoyi Outgoing Zanasu Vice President
As the Zambia National Students Union(ZANASU), We would like to call upon Govt to clean up or dissolve the Food Reserve Agency(FRA) Board with immediate effect for suspected corruption and suspected cartels formed at FRA.
We are calling upon the newly appointed Minister of Agriculture Hon. DORA SILIYA to immediately clean up the FRA pending investigations into allegations of corruption as reported by the whistle blower Zambian Voice through Mr Tayali characterizing the formation of cartels at FRA.
We feel time is of the essence into the matter, now that there is a new minister and elections are over.
We implore Govt to demonstrate its unwavering commitment into the fight against corruption by ensuring any reports on corruption or embezzlement of public funds is fully investigated and people involved take leave to allow those processes to go on without undue influence.
This matter has been in public domain but has seemingly died a natural death.
Zambians must recall that a corruption case was reported involving the then Minister of Agriculture, his Permanent Secretary the Executive Director of the FRA as having amassed so much wealth at the expense of poor Zambians.
We strongly feel if Mr Tayali and his organisation has overwhelming documented evidence of the corruption that has been taking place at the FRA involving the named individuals which he is willing to put in public domain, it warrants a thorough clean up FRA and all those involved suspended to pave way for investigations.
We are compelled to take this position because under the current fiscal problems we must demonstrate a strong will in the fight against corruption if the policies to be formulated by the Ministry of Finance will bewilder us into economic recovery. Investigations must include finding out whether the Food Reserve Agency sold some of its maize to private companies.
We believe this maize was not consumed locally but rather exported. If this is true, it is an illegal deviation from the government policy then as announced by the Honourable Minister of Agriculture Hon. Given Lubinda in Parliament as well as from the maize sales modalities. We are aware that the policy and modalities clearly specified and emphasised that the FRA should only sale its stocks in the reserves to listed millers to benefit Zambians.
And maize sold to the private companies were being sold at the same subsidized prices of K1,700 per Metric Tonne. And those that exported maize are alleged to have been deeply engaged in this organised crime and exported at a higher price K2700 per tonne.
This same margin of K1,000 plus is the other reason behind the price increases we have witnessed since November last year. Even non suspecting genuine millers are made to part away with more money than the official FRA price. But prices are pushed up as a result increased cost of production with impunity.
We promulgate that the said amounts allegedly amassed to a tune of over 720million from the sales money belonged to the Zambian people who have been buying mealie meal at unaffordable prices.
This scheme must have caused the increase in the prices of mealie meal through dubious dealings at FRA where they had been charging an extra K1000 per tonne on maize purchases from FRA shades.
The Food Reserve Agency sold a total of about 720,000 Metric Tonnes of maize in 2015 of November valued at more than K1.2Billion. As we are aware our country’s average maize consumption stood at 100,000 Metric Tonnes per month.
The 720,000MT had been released by Food Reserve Agency in the last 6 months. Under normal circumstances the country should have not been facing any of these food shortages we are experiencing.
If these millers are using the stocks from the Food Reserve Agency, at subsidized prices, there should have been no price hikes especially in view of the Minister’s assurances that once maize had been accessed from the FRA, prices would not be more than K70 and K55 for a 25kg bag of breakfast and roller meal respectively.
We find that among the myriads of reasons that warrant such a course of action are;
- Can FRA explain the alleged deal of exporting maize to Zimbabwe and some other people from PETAUKE,
- Can they also explain to the Zambians the maize export deal that was given to Aliboma by FRA from Chipata to Blantyre,
- FRA under this program were not to be allowed to export maize and mealie meal as this programme was meant to benefit Zambians, assuring that a strict monitoring mechanism had been put in place to ensure that the Millers followed the agreed upon regulation but the complete opposite was true,
- The FRA also gave GBM group of companies more than 1,000MT knowing very well that GBM was involved in maize exports. It is also alleged that records show that GBM group of companies has accessed more than 10,000MT from the FRA. How does one distinguish the maize GBM is exporting from the one he is got from the FRA?
- Also there are allegations into the purchase of utility vehicles to a sum total cost of vehicles amounting to K4,653,106 (K4.7Million) allegedly in less than 2 years,
- Alleged corruption in the award of these transport contracts,
- FRA Executive Director dealings with transporters such as Time Trucking and others.
We are surprised that people would have the impetus to squander an estimated total amount of K720,000,000 (720Million) into their pockets instead of the national confers, while the masses languish in abject poverty, while our universities struggle with funding, while tax payers continue to be overburdened, while we continue to borrow.
People must be made to the account for their actions without fear or favour. Now we ask, which made by mechanism was put in place, both at the Ministry and at FRA and why they went against the agreed upon regulations as announced.
Had there been mechanisms, all participants would have been held accountable. For instance, how does the Ministry and its officials know that the maize from FRA equals the output from the millers? And that all the output from the millers is sold locally?
If we for argument sake asked millers for their returns, would we find that their production equals maize collected from the FRA?
These are some of the mechanisms expected that once not in place raise eyebrows and don’t inspire confidence but create a lot of suspicion and anxiety suggesting deliberate negligence on the part of those directly benefiting from the gaps especially the Ministry, ZNFU and FRA.
In conclusion, we demand that the investigative and security wings do the needful since there is a willing hand to give them necessary information to do their work.
We already have some reports that some people affected in the scam are corruptly abusing some officers from DEC/ACC/Police using money.
The Ministry of Finance should equally through its monitoring mechanisms take the step before they are caught up in the mess they must investigate the utilization of the maize subsidy.
We believe this is our country’s food reserve agency, which is a non-profit making organisation being funded by each and every tax payer.
If this abuse is real, it must not be left unabated because our country’s resources cannot be embezzled at such a time when the country is talking about fiscal discipline in the administration of government’s budget and the IMF borrowing.
Management of our agriculture sector especially institutions like FRA and ZNFU must be checked because they threaten the support we get from our cooperating partners such as donors and thus subsequently threatening food security of our country.
We further demand the Anti-Corruption Commission to come out in the open on how far they have gone with investigations into this matter so that they can clear the conscious of Zambians who are now beginning to think the ZNFU saga has opened the pandoras box on FRA. We urge Zambians to demand for justice.
LONG LIVE ZANASU!
THANK YOU, AT STUDENTS SERVICE.
GOD BLESS OUR GREAT NATION ZAMBIA!