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Egypt wheat commission submits corruption report amid calls for minister to resign
(REUTERS): A fact-finding commission investigating corruption in Egypt’s domestic wheat supplies has delivered its final report to parliament, a lawmaker said on Monday, amid mounting pressure on the minister of supplies to resign.
Egypt, the world’s largest importer of wheat, has been mired in controversy over whether much of the roughly 5 million tons of grain the government said it procured in this year’s harvest exists only on paper, the result of local suppliers falsifying receipts to boost government payments.
The wheat corruption report, delivered late last week to the head of parliament, concluded some 200,000 tons of wheat was missing at ten private storage sites visited by the commission, Yasser Omar, a lawmaker on the commission, told Reuters.
“Of course there is more than one million tonnes missing … but we won’t be able to know exactly how much is missing because we cant inspect every single site,” he said.
Minister of Supplies Khaled Hanafi told Reuters last month only 4 percent of this year’s procurement was missing. Grains industry officials have said the figure likely exceeds 2 million tonnes.
If Egypt’s local wheat procurement numbers were misrepresented, it may have to spend more on foreign wheat purchases to meet domestic demand – even as the country faces a dollar shortage that has sapped its ability to import.
Parliament will discuss the report this week before questioning Hanafi and possibly holding a vote of no-confidence that could remove him from office, Omar said.
CALLS TO RESIGN
Egypt’s fact-finding commission has brought an unprecedented level of scrutiny to Hanafi’s management of the commodities sector which has already faced criticism from grains industry officials over issues such as hacked bread distribution smart cards to subsidized rice shortages.
Nader Nour El-Din, a former adviser to the ministry of supplies, said Hanafi’s policies had allowed corruption to flourish, prices on staple commodities to jump to “unprecedented levels,” and public sector companies to be “destroyed” amid favoritism for private sector businesses.
Hanafi maintains that his stewardship of the supplies ministry has led to numerous successes that include savings in flour and wheat as well as the end of bread lines.
While Hanafi has not been accused of directly profiting from corruption, parliamentarians, industry officials, and media commentators have in recent weeks pinned blame for the wheat crisis largely on his shoulders, with many calling for his resignation.
“The minister has to bear political responsibility for this,” said Omar.
Criticism took an unexpected turn late last week, when fiery media personality and lawmaker Mustafa Bekry accused Hanafi on television of using 7 million Egyptian pounds ($788,300) in state funds to maintain a residency at a posh downtown Cairo hotel.
The minister later said in a statement he had paid for the long-term hotel residence with his own personal funds.
Appearing before a parliament committee on agriculture on Monday, Hanafi chose not to respond to questions about the hotel controversy, saying only that he had no plans to step down.
“My resignation is not whatsoever on the table,” he said.
UAE environmentally-friend container ship crosses Suez Canal
An Emirati environmentally-friend container ship will cross Tuesday the new waterway of the Suez Canal, Youm7 reported.
The ship, which comes from Red Sea and heads to the Mediterranean, is considered one of the biggest container ships and belongs to the United Arab Shipping Company, according to the newspaper.
New water pipeline worth 40 mln EGP to feed El-Galala resort
A new water pipeline will be implemented in the newly-inaugurated the El-Galala Mountain touristic site on the Red Sea, announced an official at the Housing Ministry.
The total cost of the pipeline, which is 5 km in length, is 40 million EGP; it will feed the touristic villages that will be established in the resort, added Abdel Motteleb Omara, the Assistant Vice President of Urban Communities Authority.
Egypt, Congo discuss bilateral economic relations
Minister of International Cooperation Sahar Nasr met with the Congolese Ambassador in Cairo Nuduko Bwato as part of the government’s efforts to boost economic relations with African countries.
Egypt and Congo have signed a number of memoranda of understanding in February, in different fields including: tourism, small and medium enterprises and energy.
Russian consortium re-offers establishing grain silos in Egypt
The Russian consortium “Elevatorprodmashstroy” has renewed its offer to establish modern grain silos and mills, logistical centers to store grains and food commodities and factories to produce animal feed and milk, Youm7 reported.
Magdy Shehata, representative of the consortium, said that these projects will be funded by Russia on favorable terms.
The consortium includes six companies specialized in building silos and grain storage in Egypt and African countries.