Romanian medical equipment firm given contract to supply fertilizer to Malawi


Months after paying K750 million to a United Kingdom based butchery for the supply of fertilizer, Malawi Government has awarded a Romanian medical equipment supplier called East Bridge to supply fertilizer for the Affordable Input Program (AIP).

East Bridge has been hired to supply 600 thousand metric tonnes of fertilizer valued at over US$124 million (over K127 billion) and will be paid back in commodities or money if Malawi does not produce enough crops.

Minister of Finance, Sosten Gwengwe, signed the deal on behalf of Malawi Government while lawyer Likhwa Mussa signed on behalf of East Bridge.

Media outlet The Investigator, quoting contract documents, reported that Malawians will have to farm 250,000 tonnes of soybeans and ground nuts, 200,000 tonnes of maize and pigeon peas, 50000 tonnes of rice and sorghum, and 25000 sugar and cotton to satisfy the contract.

“The contract despite being long and detailed do not specify the quality, variety, and where the crops will be delivered raising questions if the paperwork is even legitimate,” The Investigator reports.

Malawi has since issued a sovereign guarantee which allows East Bridge to borrow money for the fertilizer supply on the understanding that Malawi Government will pay back the money if the company defaults.

The deal raises suspicions considering that the company’s online entries indicate that East Bridge’s core business is to supply medical equipment that is imported from Canada, Turkey, India, China. The website says it was established only in 2018.

The deal with East Bridge also goes against President Lazarus Chakwera’s directive for Malawi Government to stop using middlemen in fertilizer procurement.

Minister of Finance Gwengwe has since defended the deal saying: “This guarantee will be activated only when the fertiliser arrives in Malawi.”

However, Gwengwe’s assurances should be taken with a pinch of salt considering he is the same minister who signed a K7 trillion deal with Bridgin which claims to be based in Belgium but has no offices there and is suspected to be a fraudulent company. Despite the pomp attached to the signing ceremony which was presided over by President Lazarus Chakwera, Malawi Government appears to have now accepted that the Bridgin deal was a scam.

Last year, Government also paid K750 million to Barkaat Foods, a United Kingdom based butchery, to supply fertilizer for the AIP. The Government is currently struggling to recover the funds which are said to be in Germany.

Meanwhile, Malawians have expressed concern over the East Bridge.

Speaking to The Investigator, a contract specialist said: “Like Bridgin, Quay, and Baarkat Butchery, this all looks suspicious. A US$124 million contract would contain more than one-sided detail. This whole contract was drafted in Malawi by suspicious characters. A serious company would protect its interests, the contract shows this company is bogus.”

On social media, social commentator Joshua Chisa Mbele said: “Malawi Government never learns and will never learn.

“This time, they have entered into an Agreement with a Romanian medical-equipment supplier company to supply fertilizer for the next growing season.”

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