Thursday, March 25, 2010

PAC questions govt over Nyiombo Investments, Omnia’s contracts

PAC questions govt over Nyiombo Investments, Omnia’s contracts
By Florence Bupe
Thu 25 Mar. 2010, 04:00 CAT

THE parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has questioned the government over the continued awarding of contracts to Nyiombo Investments and Omnia for the annual supply of fertiliser under the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP).

Raising the concerns when the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives and the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries appeared before the PAC on Tuesday, committee chairperson Emmanuel Hachipuka said it was worrying that only two companies should continue supplying fertiliser to the government despite the unfavourable conditions attached.

The 2008 Auditor General's report disclosed that the agriculture ministry had accrued huge debt arising from interest on payment as well as exchange rate losses.

“This practice the persistent awarding of contracts to Nyiombo Investments and Omnia is holding Zambians to ransom and our agriculture efforts are falling to the ground due to the high cost of inputs,” he said.

Hachipuka said there was need to address rules that favour foreign suppliers at the expense of the Zambian government and communities.

“We need to address the inbuilt rules that favour suppliers. You need to find ways of recovering costs as opposed to passing on the high costs to the Zambian farmers,” he said.

Hachipuka urged the government to seriously look at reviving the local fertiliser manufacturing industry to avoid losing huge sums of money through exchange variances.

In response, agriculture permanent secretary Dr Abednigo Banda claimed that the companies had continued getting the contracts for the supply of fertiliser because they met all the requirements of the tenders.

He referred further queries to the Zambia Public Procurement Authority (ZPPA).
Dr Banda explained that due to the quantities and amounts involved in the procurement of fertiliser, the awarding of contracts went beyond the ministry and were handled by ZPPA.

“The explanation to the continued awarding of fertiliser supply contracts to the two companies over the last seven years is that they have always met the terms required by government, others fail,” Dr Banda said. “We conduct an open tender procedure; we have no particular bias towards these companies.”

Hachipuka suggested that there would be need for ZPPA to appear before the committee to explain the controversial supply issue.

“We may need to call ZPPA before the committee. The issue is that nobody in ZPPA is protecting government and that's a source of concern,” Hachipuka said. “We need to create giants locally that will be able to compete with the two companies for the purpose of lowering the cost of fertiliser.”

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