Malawi fertiliser woes Part 1: Ministers leaked Nendongos deal to sabotage it

…after a K6 billion price upgrade was suggested

…after failing to ask them raise price 

…Auzano failed to raise K700bn financing 

Malawians could be in for another fertiliser debacle as details emerge how Ministers botched fertiliser deals and tried to get suppliers include “tithes” for the ruling Malawi Congress Party (MCP), The Investigator Magazine can reveal.

The Investigator Magazine has accessed audios of calls from Malawi to Namibia and a letter from the supplier to Auzano Capital Management rejecting a new supplier who could have seen the price for commodity rise.

The new Design for UREA which was presented

The Investigator Magazine will release the audios on its new online iRadio to be launched within weeks which will reveal identities of Ministers who made calls and suggested that a new supplier provide fertiliser to Nendongo Commercial Group.

NPK design which was presented also

An approval document for the designs

MCP officials scout for fertiliser 

The chaos in the fertiliser supply started in 2021 when government decided that only MCP affiliates and companies willing to sponsor the party should supply fertiliser.

The results have been disastrous. Apart from the Barkaat Butchery which cost Malawians K750 million and lots in Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirendas travels to London and Germany, kickbacks have been collected across suppliers.

The Investigator Magazine has a name of an official from  MCP who claims he works on behalf of the OPC to solicit contracts. He travelled to Mozambique to arrange for fertiliser subsidy in August and he was asked to pay cash, which he could not.

The 2023 to 2024 supply season is already emerging as challenging after the Ministry of Agriculture opted to use restricted tender system and suppliers only favourable to government were awarded the contracts.

“Some suppliers were thought to be supporters of the opposition parties, though they have capacity, they were dropped,” said our source at the Ministry of Agriculture.

Minister Sam Kawale is on record that the restricted tenders gave the contracts to companies that had low bids and had stocks of fertiliser within the country.

The Investigator Magazine has documents indicating some of the selected suppliers had higher bids than others  and have not supplied fertiliser yet before.

The bids for 2023/24 prices shows Malawi Fertiliser Company was the cheapest supplying Urea in Lilongwe at 619.87 for Lilongwe only followed by Optichem (2000) Ltd was the lowest supplying in United States Dollars per metric ton with Urea document showing 620.34 for Blantyre  only and the second one for NPK shows at 657.28 in Blantyre and 674.10 in Lilongwe, Blue Deebaj 683.45 for Blantyre and Lilongwe.

Farmers World quoted document Urea shows 652.97 for Lilongwe only  and another 652.97 for Blantyre and NPK 695.45 for Blantyre 706.37 for Lilongwe and 732.82 for Mzuzu.

Unusual company is called  Saidi Investment Limited  which had three seperate quotes,  the Urea shows 700 for Blantyre, 868.73 for Lilongwe and 916 for Mzuzu and another for 849.42 for Blantyre, 725 for Lilongwe and 750 for Mzuzu while its first quote being  NPK lot for 725 in Blantyre only, then a second one for 868.73 for Blantyre , 897.68 for Lilongwe and 965.25 for Mzuzu.

Saidi Investment was back a third time with a single bid of 780 for Mzuzu only.

Afriventure pegged 718 for Urea and 780 for NPK for both Blantyre and Lilongwe, Chipala Investment bid was for NPK 795 for Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu. 

Sealand Investment  bid for Urea was 725 for Blantyre, 729 for Lilongwe and 769 for Mzuzu while NPK was 825 for Blantyre and 829 for Lilongwe. ETG limited bid was 720 for Urea and NPK at 830.70 for Blantyre and Lilongwe.

Worldwide pegged its fertiliser Urea at 745.25 for Blantyre and 750.25 for Lilongwe while NPK was pegged at 946.70 for Blantyre and 965.25 for Lilongwe while Mediterranean Fertliser bid was 960 for all the three cities deliveries.

Transglobe  appears twice on Urea bidding 730 and 740 for Blantyre and Lilongwe respectively and another 750 for Lilongwe as a seperate bi’s.

Midima  bid was only for Urea at 735 for both Blantyre and Lilongwe, Chipiku stores at 745 for the same two cities and Paramount Holding  at 740 for Blantyre and Lilongwe and 770 for Mzuzu.

Produce Mart bid for Urea at 880 and Zathu 907.34 for Lilongwe only.

The rest were above US$1000.00

Nendongo fertiliser was asked to get fertiliser US$5 million more expensive.

On 01 November 2022 while Malawians were digesting the after effect of the Butchery saga which had led to firing of Agriculture Minister  Lobin Lowe four days earlier, two fertiliser deals were already in motion.

The infamous K273 billion East Bridge deal which turned out into another opportunity to swindle public finances and the Nendongo Commercial Group worth K170 billion.

Nendongo had been promised that financing of the deal will be raised by a little known Auzano Capital Management  owned by a Zimbabwean Muruviri Kupara, which suddenly had been granted K700 billion worth of sovereign guarantees by Minister of Finance Sosten Gwengwe.

Nobody has indicated who identified Auzano Capital Management and is suspected to have links to a Malawian who deals with Office of the President and Cabinet.

Auzano money was to pay for the Nendongo deal worth K170 billion and this was confirmed by Mupara in a letter to Nendongo on 15th October 2022.

In apparent reference to a telephone conversation, Nendongo Commercial Group owner Jonas Nendongo wrote Auzano Capital Management to reject its suggestion that it should buy 96,000 metric tons of fertiliser at a supplier SC General Trading which would push the price to US$710 from its original US$650 price.

 “Nendongo Commercial Group cannot accept suggestion of buying 96,000mt ton of urea from SC General Trading,” writes Nendongo in his letter a copy of which we have published.

SC General Trading according to our findings has been in touch with senior officials at the Office of the President and Cabinet and Ministry of Agriculture and Auzano Capital Management was redirected by a powerful Minister in MCP Government to tell Nendongo to buy from the supplier.

Nendongo told Auzano to communicate to SFFFRM of any changes and suggested price adjustments as it had already identified its own suppliers with guarantees.

K6 billion prices, similar to what East Bridge is said to have offered some MCP gurus 

Coincidentally, another set of audios reveal that East Bridge Estates Directors ranted that they have had access to senior government officials and that US$6 million would be realised from the deal to the ruling party.

The East Bridge bribe would be in form of fertiliser of 5 000 tons each which would be supplied to one of the subsidy suppliers and then the company would make payments to legitimate companies owned by Ministers.

We will soon publish details of the alleged bribery offer and the companies mentioned.

“Nendongo deal upgrade is almost the same amount US$5.7 million dollars. This tells you that the target amount for each deal is about K5 billion,” our investigations analyst concludes.

Honeymoon over, MCP, Ministers in leaking documents competition 

After The Investigator Magazine published the East Bridge Estates deal, Ministers were not pleased and fingers point at internal sobatage as Nendongo who had another MCP official in Malawi as its representative was suspected to have engineered the leak.

“Everyone had their own contract. Nendongo did not play ball. This was a pay back and East Bridge had a bigger supporter within the Ministry. Your guess is as as good as mine on who leaked the Nendongo contract,” said a source.

The fight has led to cancellation of both contracts and each side is picking up pieces while Malawians will have to wait a while for fertiliser.

“Fertiliser procurement should be done by an independent professional body. Too much politics and some people are using it to fleece suppliers. The fact that government wanted it in secret should tell you the story,” suggested a procurement official in Government.

No fertiliser yet, last year suppliers not paid

Some suppliers we approached indicate they are yet to release their fertiliser as they are waiting for last year’s payments after the botched up procurement.

“We were promised dollar rate but the money has not been paid. We can’t give them new commodity,” said the supplier.

The Ministry of Agriculture did not respond to our questions and days after it said there were enough stocks of maize it turned around and admitted it was lying- there is less enough maize in the country.

Should suppliers fail to release the commodity by October, a repeat of 2022/23 farming season could spell doom for farmers who already 1 million have been removed from the programme despite increase in poverty rates in the country.

Editors note: The Fertiliser and Food woes Part 2 will cover the audios in detail. Be on the look out

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