Fertiliser procurement scam continues

The Government is on Monday again expected to sign another agreement to procurement of 50 000 tonnes of Urea Fertiliser for the next farming season from Saudi Arabia.

Government has been claiming that the imported Saudi Arabian fertilizer was cheaper than could be sourced locally but facts are that the imported fertilizer was costing the country $1000 per ton after all logistics had been factored, compared to US$720 when landed by private suppliers.

Last year, as late as December, government was attempting to procure 42,000 tons of Urea fertilizer from a Chinese company, Shanxi Jincheng Antracite Mining Group International Trapping of Shanx Province in China a deal that was botched.

A delegation led by Secretary to the Treasury FredsonYamba was reported to have gone to Saudi Arabia for the deal that would again plunge the country into further distribution crisis that had characterised the process this farming season.

Ministry of Agriculture deputy Minister GreyfordMoonde admitted then that government was in the process of procuring fertilizer from Saudi Arabia and that preliminary preparations had commenced.

“Government has started the process of procuring 150.000 tons of Urea fertilizer from Saudi Arabia because we do not want to delay the distribution process next farming season. But it is not true that a delegation has already been sent to Saudi Arabia. You seem to have been digging deeper and I can encourage you to continue digging. When the process is over, we will certainly inform you,” Moonde said at the time.

But when contacted yesterday, Monde said he was in his constituency and that he was not aware that a delegation from Saudi Arabia was in the country to finalize the deal.

The Daily Nation has learnt that Government had sourced a loan to facilitate the procurement of Urea fertiliser in Saudi Arabia and has completely ignored local suppliers that came to the aid of government at the eleventh hour this farming season.

It is believed that President Michael Sata was not consulted over the Saudi Arabian fertiliser deal and information reaching this newspaper was to the effect that the Head of State instructed the cancellation of the deal because it was not tendered.

Ministry of Agriculture officials have complained that the Ministry of Finance has been spearheading the procurement of Urea Fertiliser from Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) to the complete exclusion of the Ministry responsible for agriculture.

The officials said that after President Sata caused the cancellation of the Saudi Arabia deal, the Yamba-led delegation returned to Zambia for fresh plans and by yesterday, a delegation from that country was reported to have arrived in the country for the signing of the memorandum of understanding for the procurement of fertiliser whose tonnage has since been revised to 50 000 tonnes from the intended 150 000 tonnes.

The Ministry of Agriculture officials have disclosed that that it was most likely that President Sata was not aware of what was happening in the procurement of fertiliser and that the memorandum of understanding would be signed on Monday at the Ministry of Finance offices.

The latest Saudi Arabian deal comes hot as the  heels of a scandalous procurement of 50,000 tons of Urea fertilizer from SABIC whose purchase has remained obscured.

The officials have also revealed that of the 50 000 tonnes that was imported last year from Saudi Arabia, government was charged $1 million for storage of the second shipment at the Tanzania’s Port of Dar es Salaam.

It has also been learnt that inexcess of 6 000 tonnes of what was delivered to the country has not been accounted for resulting into government losing approximately $6 million.

The officials said that the grain traders and local suppliers of fertiliser have been meeting to strategise help and government avert what happened this farming season but that government was not willing to engage other stakeholders.