There is mist over how the Ministry of Agriculture removed Mulli Brothers Limited from a list of transporters for the 2012/13 Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) after an Internal Procurement Committee (IPC) and the ODPP had passed the conglomerate.

The Nation has noted a contradiction between the list the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security sent for consent to the Office of Director of Public Procurement (ODPP) and the one provided to the media by the ministry.

A close look at the document shows the name removed is that of Mulli Brothers Limited which appeared as number 36 on the initial list.

The list attached to a letter that Secretary for Agriculture and Food Security Dr Geoffrey Luhanga sent to ODPP on September 12 2012 has 44 transporters, with Mulli appearing on number 34, while the one circulated by Agriculture has 43 contractors. Number 34 on the list circulated by the Agriculture Ministry is now another operator, Kudu Tours & Freight Services, which is 36 on the initial list sent for ODPP consent.

The initial list is part of minutes of an IPC evaluation meeting held on July 5 2012.

Present were Wilfred Lipita, then IPC chairperson, and members G. Nyandule-Phiri, B. Kumwembe, M. Chingeni, K. Mwenela and P. Mbewe, a co-opted member.

Also present were G. Ching’oma, evaluation chairperson for the Fisp fertiliser; F. Chinangwa, evaluation chairperson for Fisp transportation; C. Zimba (chief procurement officer); W. Makalande (supplies officer) and I. Nazitwere (procurement officer).

In an interview on Tuesday, Lipita insisted Mulli is among the transporters, but both the list and Mulli Brothers chairperson and managing director Leston Mulli contradict the former IPC chairperson.

Argued Muli: “You know very well that this government cannot give business to a Lhomwe like me. They have their own people, mostly foreigners they are dealing with.

“I know my name went to ODPP and it came back to the ministry. That is where they removed me.”

Lipita said all companies awarded transportation contracts were considered on the basis of capacity.

Mulli argued that if the transportation contracts were being given on the basis of capacity, then “why should Mulli be left out?”

Said Mulli: “This is sad. We have the most experience and capacity. We have done this job beginning with the Bakili Muluzi regime during the starter pack programme and someone thinks we don’t have the capacity to deliver?

“It is sad such things are coming at the time they are preaching economic recovery. How do they recover when they are killing local businesses? What they are forgetting is that if we die, we will die with the taxes we pay and we will not be able to service our bank loans which will also mean killing the banking industry.”

Mulli said he had planned to put at least 200 trucks in the project to deliver the Fisp commodities to satellite depots.

“But we are not worried. We are businesspeople and have done business for a long time. If one door closes, God will open another,” said Mulli.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Minister of Agriculture Peter Mwanza and his deputy Ulemu Chilapondwa said this year the list has new names “because we don’t want to have life contractors”. But the two did not directly comment on the Mulli removal.

Mulli Brothers, a major private sector player, has this year also not featured on the subsidised fertiliser suppliers list, a business line he has enjoyed with previous governments.

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