Principal Secretaries get 9-month suspended sentence

Principal Secretary for Agriculture Grey Nyandule Phiri aged 57 and Secretary to Treasury Cliff Chiunda aged 59 have been handed a 9-month suspended sentence for contempt of court.

High Court Judge Charles Mkandawire has sentenced the two controlling officers to nine months imprisonment but the sentence has been suspended for 24 months.

Judge Mkandawire said the punishment has been meted out on the two in order to uphold the dignity of the court.

Last month, the High Court found the two guilty after they failed to apologise to Malawians during a given period over the sale of tractors.

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 Ombudsman Martha Chizuma 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.