About six of the 12 companies that were awarded contracts for the 2017/2018 Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) made losses of about K46 million through recycled coupons.
A source who opted for anonymity told The Daily Times Tuesday that some coupons were back on the market after they were already submitted to the Logistics Unit, an entity sponsored by development partners to give checks and balances for the implementation of Fisp.
“Some coupons were either cleaned or washed and presented for use again by some people. I don’t think they were farmers but rather other individuals because this was a criminal activity. And when we took these coupons to the Logistics Unit for payment, they would tell us the coupon numbers were already in their database. However, it was limited and stopped but it still happened.” the source said.
The source said it was discovered that they were a number of coupons that people had tried to use twice further saying the Logistics Unit did not pay the affected companies.
“The problem is that they said they cannot pay us because some coupons were submitted twice in some situations by other companies. But to be fair to the ministry and the Logistics Unit, the coupons had so many security features.
“One of the security features was visibly affected, so if you looked carefully, you would be able to see there is something wrong with this coupon. So, basically, the companies that were affected hadn’t checked carefully enough on one of the features that were tampered with,” the source said.
Ministry of Agriculture spokesperson Osborne Tsoka confirmed the development, saying they were able to trace the people who attempted to recycle the coupons and their cases are currently in court.
“After changing the system that was being used, the recycling incident did not happen again. From Malawi Government, we noted that there were some coupons that were recycled. But if one looked at the security features that were on the coupons, it was showing that the texture and colour had changed. So, it was very difficult for the coupons to get into the system and government did not pay extra money, we spent what we planned,” he said.
Tsoka said the ministry tried to quantify the loss and it translated to less than one percent of the total programme arguing that the whole programme cost about K36 billion and cumulatively the companies affected made a loss of about K46 million.
“The loss did not go to Malawi Government; it went to the companies. However, as government we were also worried that some companies were losing because of the attempts made to recycle the coupons. However, it was a shared problem because the companies were told of the security features on the coupons,” he said.
Efforts to speak to Logistics Unit Team Leader, Charlie Clark, hit a blank as he was very uncooperative.
“Don’t use this telephone number again. I am in the middle of the road and I am not going to talk to you,” he said as soon as this reporter made her introduction.