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GMB Corruption and mismanagement exposed

25 Dec 2019 at 08:55hrs | Views
The GMB has been in chaos and turmoil since the days of the Kumbirai Kangai GMB scandal in 1997. GMB has been used as a tool for personal enrichment and has been weaponised as a tool for corruption instead of using it as an instrument to fight hunger and reinforce the nation's food security. Behind GMB scandals are politicians, greedy managers and some unscrupulous millers who do not care about the people.

It is reported that GMB dismissed 4 Top Executives last week, the 4 were fired over allegations contained in an audit report which has not yet been made public.

The four executives are the GMB operations director, Lawrence Jasi, company secretary Rodney Mzyece and two other unnamed officials. Jasi was said to have confirmed receiving the dismissal letter but did not share further details.

ZBC News reports that its sources within the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement have confirmed the development but could neither name the audit firm involved nor the actual allegations levelled against the four executives.

Investigations revealed that this could be pay back against some of the senior executives who raised red flags over the appointment of Mr Rockie Mutenha.
Some of the executives appeared before THE Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Agriculture  and stated that current Grain Marketing Board general manager, Rockie Mutenha, was appointed without board approval. The dismissed Mr Lawrence Jasi was one of the people who appeared before the parliamentary Committee. The committee expressed concern over Mutenha's irregular appointment after coming third during interviews, though he remains the GMB head to date.

GMB executives have been coming and going yet corruption and mismanagement have remained as permanent residents of the Grain Marketing Board.

In 2018 Basilio Sandamu who was a GMB boss was arrested for fraud which prejudiced the GMB of $1 Million. The case never reached its logical legal conclusion.

Rockie Mutenha
The current GMB boss has been at the centre of several scandals but remains the top dog at the parastatal. His appointment and retention alone remain a scandal before we even look further into his performance record.

Grain Marketing Board (GMB) chief executive officer Rockie Mutenha allegedly misled Parliament  when he denied reports that the parastatal received $9 million from the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) to repair its silos.

Mutenha told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Agriculture which was then led by Gokwe Nembudziya MP Justice Mayor Wadyadyena that the GMB did not receive money to repair silos from GMAZ and never entered into a loan agreement with any institution.

But documents and investigations later indicated that in 2017, GMAZ entered into a silos repair contract with government, represented by then Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa.

"This indicative term sheet sets out the basis upon which the GMAZ would consider financing GMB to enable the latter to rehabilitate, repair and maintain certain of its silos," part of the contract reads.

The utilisation of $9 million was to be monitored by MetBank Limited, which was the "arranger" of the contract.

In a letter to the GMB auditors, Baker Tilly and Chartered Accountants, Mutenha, as the GMB general manager, confirmed that the parastatal had received over $5 million from GMAZ.

"GMB was given authority to utilise funding from the GMAZ facility for silo rehabilitation works. The entity has to date withdrawn $5 516 244,99. This was all channelled towards the waterproofing of silos," part of the letter, signed by Mutenha on February 13, 2018, reads.

In 2017, then Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa also acknowledged that government had received funding from GMAZ to rehabilitate silos.

No action was taken against Mr Rockie Mutenha for blatantly misleading Parliament on an issue of such national importance.

A stakeholder in the agriculture sector, once stated that unless GMB takes the issue of transparency and accountability seriously, "it will continue to be used for convenience sake and will inevitably sink."

When GMB sinks the nation bears the brunt through grain shortage and that presents a threat to food security and national security at large.

The moral compass and fibre of Mr Rockie Mutenha is questionable, and the recent GMB grain scandals and under hand dealings have exposed that the emperor at GMB has no clothes.

On reflection, Mr Kumbirai Kangai's famous GMB case is viewed as part of a cancer of corruption that was in its formative stages but is now full blown and tearing the parastatal apart.

Allegations of gross corruption continue to haunt the GMB as allegations of influential politicians and businesspeople siphoning the parastatal continue to be reported in the media .

Investigations into the affairs of the company show that despite its strategic nature as the national food security guarantor, the GMB has fallen victim to underhand and yet costly deals involving some ministers, senior politicians, Government officials, GMB management and even the general workers who have brought the parastatal to its knees.

There are number of cases of prominent politicians allegedly abusing their posts to access cheap grain for personal livestock and poultry projects.
Others simply direct colleagues to get maize for resale at agreed profit-sharing margins.
Information gathered from GMB's main depot in Harare shows that ‘‘Government letterheads'' are being abused by senior Government officials for easy and fast access to the little grain available.

A source at the parastatal said the letters, sometimes  from ministers, are signed or authorised ‘‘at the very top (GMB) management level'' before being handed down to lower-ranking officials who facilitate release of maize and other products without much scrutiny of the documents.

In the process, millions of tonnes of maize meant for the nation's consumption has, in the past two decades, enriched a few.
Investigations following the letterhead allegations shows that documents purporting to have been authorised by certain ministers (names withheld) are a regular feature at most of the company's depots countrywide.

Some ministers are also fingered in siphoning small depots of maize for "private functions in their constituencies."

However, the responsibility to take corrective measures that can save the GMB lies with the Government even though the alleged abuse is pointing back to the government .

There is a lot of  political manipulation at GMB. Government needs to redefine the GMB — is it a political arm or a national institution? Of late the GMB has been benefiting 2 big players in the milling industry who have been receiving the bulk of maize from the GMB leaving other players to scrounge for a share of less than 40% of remaining grain.

This development raised eyebrows and caused complaint particularly from Matebeleland based Millers who felt prejudiced by the development. All this has been happening under the watch, guidance and advice of Mr Rockie Mutenha.

Legislators, especially from rural constituencies, are known to use villagers' plight to secure maize from GMB and convert it to personal use.

Where distribution takes place, the process is shrouded in secrecy and no accounting or audit procedures are followed.

A case was once raised against a group of politicians in Mashonaland Central Province who are being accused of diverting several tonnes of maize meant for the grain loan scheme for personal use. Reports indicated that the issue was just a tip of the iceberg of what is really going on at GMB depots around the country. To date nothing was done to the Mash Central group of legislators who abused grain at the GMB.

Corrective Measures
The Ministers of Agriculture, Finance, Industry and the President need to relook the GMB strategy, functions and operations. There is need to clean the house at GMB and turn it into a professional entity that makes meaningful contribution to the nation's food security.

A functional and effective GMB makes Mthuli Ncube's job easier and helps the President towards a food secure nation. Thus far GMB is an economic saboteur which must be dealt with decisively.

If need be the President himself has to preside over cleaning house at the GMB and institute solid corrective measures. Our grain needs to be managed transparently, strategically and effectively to ensure that our people benefit from various agricultural programs. The agricultural programs are instituted to ensure that the nation becomes self sustaining and food secure. If the GMB is bleeding maize at a loss then all agricultural programs will never bring desired results.

Nicholas Ncube is a writer and blogger based in Ontario Canada

Source - Nicholas Ncube
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