Attorney General initiates investigation on fertilizer saga

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Oumer Hussein, Minister of Agriculture (Photo: Anteneh Aklilu)

The has started its investigation on imported blending fertilizer based on the audit report of the Ministry of Agriculture. Government is also currently seeking to sell these blending fertilizers to other countries.
Minister of Agriculture, Oumer Hussein told Capital that the Ministry has done an audit and a report on the overall loss of the purchasing process of the blending fertilizer, “the Ministry of Agriculture has submitted its findings to the Attorney General to bring those who are accountable for the purchase of under standard blended fertilizer,” said Oumer stating that, “the purchasing process lacked clarity, which cost the country millions of birr.”
Suspected individuals related to the purchase bids and distribution of the faulty fertilizer were said to be accused for mismanagement of resources.
Regarding the issue Tesfaye Dahba, Deputy Attorney General told Capital that the federal Attorney General has started its investigation based on the findings of the Ministry of Agriculture. He has however declined to give further information since the case is under investigation.
It is to be recalled that five state-owned fertilizer blending factories was built at a total cost of 140 million birr in 2016 to revamp the industry. After building the blending factories the government has been importing zinc, boron and potassium. For this particular case, an import of 75,000 tons of boron fertilizer from Yara Switzerland for blending by these facilities was what grabbed the attention of government.
The aforementioned fertilizer shipment was found to be below the required standards for blending. The boron fertilizer from Yara was supposed to be granular but was found to be much smaller in size. Yet again, this fertilizer shipment, which was imported in 2014/15 and 2015/16, was distributed to fertilizer blending factories across the country.
However, these fertilizer shipments were a source of trouble to most of the blending factories as they were below the required standards and did not match with what was written on each bag as specification.
“These blending materials are not good for Ethiopian context,” said the Minister of Agriculture. “It therefore cannot be used as planned.”
Back in 2018, the government had decide to lift up the fertilizer blending and 15 factories which were damaged due to the imported substandard fertilizer to lease to the Morocco giant fertilizer company OCP which signed a 15 years lease agreement with Ethiopia to the renovation of the factories and was doing assessment of the factories.
According to the agreement, the group had agreed to make the factories operational and make the materials use and to be fully involved in the skill development of farmers.
Even if the group had agreed to make the factories operational until the end of 2018, however the Ministry of Agriculture said because of the over whelming asking price of OCP the government has stopped its deal with the OCP.
“Since it is a profitable company (OCP) we inquired for an additional offer but we couldn’t afford that. Currently we are deciding to sell the material to other countries,” explained Oumer. The Minister expressed that one of the benefit to selling the material was set to do away with rent cost since for more than 3 years it had stayed in stores costing in millions for rent, which was difficult to continue.
“When we become nationally strong we will start producing,” said the Minister.
On a burdensome unfolding, this mismatch had finally resulted in damaging the blending equipment of the factories managed under Gibe Dedessa Farmers’ Cooperative Union in Oromia Regional State, Merkeb Cooperative Union in Amhara Regional State, Enderta Farmers’ Cooperative Union in Tigray Regional State and Melek Site in Southern Regional State.
Officials from the OCP have declined to comment on the issue.