Secretary to Treasury, Agriculture PS found guilty of contempt

Secretary to the Treasury Cliff Chiunda and Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Gray Nyandule Phiri have been found guilty of contempt court over a delayed apology.

The High Court in Lilongwe has found the two guilty after they failed to apologise to Malawians during a given period over the sale of tractors

Chiunda, 59, and Phiri aged 57 face a maximum punishment of two years in prison.

Their lawyer Chauncy Gondwe asked the court to hand the a lenient sentence saying the two are first offenders and have passed the life expectancy level in Malawi.

However, High Court Judge Charles Mkandawire said the Ombudsman Martha Chizuma will suggest to the court the punishment that will be handed to the two controlling officers.

Chizuma was the one who took the two principal secretaries to court for contempt of court, after they failed to act in accordance with a Supreme Court order.

Last year, the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal ordered the two public officers to issue a public apology in 60 days after a report by the Ombudsman faulted the entire process of procurement of 177 tractors which were bought using a US$50 million loan from India for use by smallholder farmers but were later illegally sold.

The two principal secretaries issued their public apology outside the period ordered by the court forcing Chizuma’s office to take them to court saying they undermined the Supreme Court of Appeal.

But Phiri and Chiunda argued that publication of their apology was delayed because of technical issues.

In 2016, the Ombudsman released a report titled “The Present Toiling, The Future Overburdened” which faulted the entire process of procurement and subsequent disposal of the 177 tractors and other farm equipment as both illegal and irregular.

The Ombudsman’s report recommended prosecution of the members of the internal procurement committee (IPC) and all people who presided over the sale of the farm machinery and benefited from the sale.

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