By IOMMIE CHIWALO
The Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI) has penned Attorney General requesting for a quick audit of Greenbelt Greenhouse Limited (GGL) which its actions are not only suspicious but also contrary to the public finance management protocols.
In a letter addressed to Attorney General, Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda, CDEDI Executive Director Sylvester Namiwa wants government to make public shareholding information, complete with documentary evidence that GGL a company that was established in 2019, and was partnered by an Israel based entity Innocellia, to manage a vegetable farm in Lumbazi, Dowa district, paid its equity contribution.
The calls by CDEDI are coming after its investigations proved that on two different occasions between 2020 and 2021, a team of auditors from the Auditor General’s office was blocked from accessing the GGL premises.
Namiwa also requests for an explanation to the nation on the process that was followed to identify Innocellia as both a partner and manager.
“And GBA should demonstrate how it has exercised its delegated authority from Malawians and has managed to represent their interests given that the Authority has been prevented from placing an officer at the farm,” he said.
He has also demanded that GBA should explain why the company does not declare dividends, let alone annual financial revenue and reports.
Reading from relevant investment documents, show that in 2018 the Malawi government made available funding through the treasury to the tune of US$5.5 million and allocated 30 hectares of land to establish a modern vegetable farm whereby a greenhouse fitting on a hectare of land was pegged at US$ 100,000.
Namiwa has also disclosed that apart from the initial US$ 5.5 million, the Malawi government pumped in MK2.2 billion and MK2.7 billion respectively.
“As if this is not enough, Malawian taxpayers pay this company every month huge sums of money in what is known as management fees. And if the above is anything to go by, then this entity ought to declare dividends and also make public its annual financial statements,” he suggests.
Namiwa has applauded efforts by government towards the recovery process of public funds that were invested in Salima Sugar Company Limited (SSCL) through the Greenbelt Authority (GBA), a process that started in earnest through the bold decision to make public the contents of the forensic audit that was sanctioned by the Malawi Government on SSCL.
However he lamented that the aforementioned figure was too much for the 16 greenhouses that were erected by an Israeli company Innocellia, which later on became both the manager and partner.
“Just like the case with SSCL, the partner was expected to inject in funds as equity that should have translated into BGA having 49 percent shares, while 51 percent shares were from Innocellia,” he said.
The CDEDI Boss has since said the noble thing to do is to call for a forensic audit just like the case with SSCL, since details have emerged that by now, Malawi should have had two more farms in Mzuzu and Blantyre districts, a thing which is not the case at the moment.
He has hinted on the inexistence of two more projects namely the Irish Potato aimed at saving forex spent on importation of white Irish potato, and the Aquaculture project in Salima aimed at improving the fish supply in the country, attached to the same line of credit, which every Malawian is paying back now.
In the letter, CDEDI has also requested Minister of Finance in copy through the Reserve Bank, to provide a detailed account of the foreign exchange accrued from the vegetable exports for the past 5 years that the company has been in operation.
Office of the Attorney General confirmed receipt of the letter but is yet to comment on its contents.