Ombudsman hails PSs conviction in tractor-gate case

Ombudsman Martha Chizuma has expressed satisfaction over the conviction of two principal secretaries for contempt of court in relation to the infamous tractor-gate scandal.

On Tuesday the High Court ruled that Secretary to the Treasury Cliff Chiunda and Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Grey Nyandule Phiri are guilty of court contempt in relation to the flawed procurement and disposal of farm equipment which costed government $50 million (about K137 billion) loan from Export-Import Bank of India.

According to Chizuma, the two did not comply with the Supreme Court order which called for their apology in 21 days over the procurement and disposal of farm equipment, which included 177 tractors.

She applauded the ruling citing that it is way to go in dealing with maladministration and corruption among civil servants.

“From our perspective, we are very satisfied because the court has simply up heard the petition that we presented before it, we had done this after noting noncompliance from Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Finance,” Chizuma said.

She said the ruling signifies the commitment that the country has in respecting the Republican Constitution.

“We are happy that finally the court has up heard the rule of law, the court has up heard accountability, the court has basically up heard the Constitution, because ours is a Constitutional body which mandated to demand accountability from government on behalf of people, and we did that,” Chizuma said.

High Court Judge Charles Mkandawire has since set Monday August 5, 2019 for sentencing the two civil servants.

Using a Parliament approved loan, government procured 177 tractors and 144 maize shellers in 2014, but the equipment was sold to politicians, civil servants and other private sector gurus though it was initially meant for smallholder farmers.

Recently, the National Anti-Corruption Alliance (NACA) issued a warning that it will drag to court all individuals involved in the purchase of the said farm equipment.

According to NACA, the public apology issued by the Agriculture Ministry is not enough and that justice must prevail and all those perpetrators behind the maladministration must be hold accountable.

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