Malawi: Chilima Says Tractorgate Apology Not Enough, Wants Beneficiaries to Be Prosecuted

UTM Party president Saulos Chilima (file photo).

UTM Party president Saulos Chilima has said beneficiaries of the flawed procurement and disposal of archaic farm equipment purchased using $50 million (about K37 billion) borrowed funds in 2012 christened as Tractorgate, be prosecuted and recover taxpayers' money.

Chilima said this at a political rally he addressed in Mangochi at St Augustine 3 Primary School Ground following government's regret over the Tractorgate.

He saidthat the apology is not enough as resources were abused and there is need to account for them.

"People who are involved in the tractor deal are known and still alive. They should be brought to book because the tractors were brought using a loan which Malawians will continue to pay.

"Apologising in public is not enough to stop corruption," said Chilima, an immediate past vice-president.

In February this year, the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal backed the Ombudsman and ruled that the two public officers [PSs]should issue "a public apology for buying equipment that was archaic and sitting idle and deteriorating, thus unnecessarily indebting Malawians and for the illegal selling of the tractors".

Ruling on the appeal, the Supreme Court said the Ombudsman's Office acted within its mandate by ordering the respective offices to comply with its order for a public apology on how they managed the procurement and disposal.

Besides the apology, the Ombudsman, in a 48-page October report titled 'The Present Toiling, The Future Overburdened', also recommended prosecution of the members of the internal procurement committee (IPC) and "those who presided over the sale of the farm machinery and benefited from the sale should be prosecuted in accordance with the Procurement Act".

The farm equipment was bought using part of the $50 million line of credit from Export-Import Bank of India with the aim of facilitating mechanisation of agriculture in the country.

The farm machinery in question included 100 tractors and 144 maize shellers. In total, 177 tractors were bought for distribution to agriculture development divisions (ADDs) to enable smallholder farmers graduate to mechanisation by hiring the equipment.

However, only 77 tractors were distributed to ADDs while 100 were sold.

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