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Command Agric mystery deepens

by Staff reporter
10 Mar 2020 at 14:34hrs | Views
THE mystery over the US$840 million allegedly paid to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) for Command Agriculture deepened yesterday with the company distancing itself from the programme.

Appearing before the Tendai Biti - chaired Public Accounts Parliamentary Portfolio Committee, GMB operations manager Clemence Guta told legislators that the parastatal's role in command agriculture was to act as a storage and distribution agent.

"Maybe that figure may not be accurate because the role of the GMB was basically to receive inputs and store. We were not a procuring authority. "In 2017 and 2018, the RBZ did the procurement. All payments for the inputs were done by the RBZ, so to say that we received money for inputs and imports is misleading, "We signed contracts as a receiving agent and RBZ as the paying agent In 2019-2020 we are not a signatory to either the presidential input scheme or Command Agriculture," Guta said.

The musing funds issue was raised by the Auditor General's report regarding utilisation of USS840 million and a further US$43 million. Last year, the then permanent secretary in the Ministry of Lands, Ringson Chitsiko, told Biti's committee that he could not account for funds as they were never channelled through his ministry where he was the accounting officer. On the other hand, RBZ deputy governor Khupukile Mlambo told the same committee that the central bank had paid the money to GMB.

"The evidence we got from Chitsiko is that the issue could best be explained by the GMB. You need to take this committee seriously. "There is not a single question that you have been able to respond to. The ministry of Agriculture knows nothing, the ministry of Finance says it only released funds, the RBZ says it was payment agency. Where is the money?" Biti asked.

In response, Guta, with the support of the GMB acting finance director Constancia Hanka, said the committee had been misled by the RBZ. "You were misled by the RIM. The RIM did not pay anything on behalf of GMB because Command Agriculture was never a GMB programme in terms of accounting. To say GMB was running the programme is not true," Guta said after independent Norton MP Temba Mliswa had demanded clarity on whether he was accusing government of lying to Parliament. The committee roasted Decks for not keeping records of the value of the inputs the GMB stored both for the Presidential Inputs Scheme and Command Agriculture.

"We had no reason to keep those records because there is a Command Agriculture department responsible for that at the ministry. "GMB would never lay claim if the inputs were stolen. All it did was to keep records of what we received as well as the breakages received. We also kept records of what we distributed," Dzeka said.

Meanwhile, the committee also heard that in 2018, the RBZ contracted Seed Valley Company to supply 350 units of chemicals for armyworm for the Presidential Inputs Scheme. The company's sales manager, Tich Maponga, said the contract was worth USS8,7 million and was paid at the interbank rate.

"This was only for one season until 2019, but this year we were contracted to supply seed, knapsack sprayers and seed for S80 million. We have, however, subcontracted other seed companies to help with the supplies," Maponga said.

Source - dailynews