LOSS-MAKING Grain Marketing Board (GMB) is expected to incur a deficit of more than $280 million this season, in a suspected scam that is expected to benefit top Zanu PF officials, who are reportedly masquerading as millers so that they buy grain maize at a subsidised price of $250 per tonne and later resell it to the parastatal for $390 per tonne.
BY BLESSED MHLANGA
The deal would see GMB losing $140 per tonne of maize stored at its depots.
GMB, which has already received a million metric tonnes, is expected to buy close to two million tonnes of maize this season, which if all is sold to millers, will blow a hole of $280m in government books.
GMB spokesperson Joseph Katete confirmed the buying of maize grain at a higher price and reselling it to millers at a lower prices, saying this was a government subsidy to promote local grain millers.
“That is the price we will be selling the maize to millers because this is an effort by the government to promote local companies by selling the grain at that price,” he said.
The last time GMB used this intervention to promote millers in 2007, the parastatal was allegedly scammed of millions of dollars by top officials, who took advantage of the loophole and forged documents to imply there was movement of grain from the depots to the millers.
But Katete yesterday said GMB had systems in place to block such corrupt activities, by working closely with the millers to ensure transparency.
“There is a millers’ association, which has a list of its members. We will only sell to those on that list to ensure that there is no looting,” he said.
A source at the GMB said the scheme was abused in 2007 by government ministers and Zanu PF officials.
“They would come and stamp papers that, for instance, they had delivered 300 tonnes of maize to GMB, and get paid without supplying anything, then they would stamp papers that they had bought 300 tonnes of maize at a lesser price, pocketing the difference and cleaning GMB coffers,” a source said.
MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu said Zanu PF members were abusing State companies to line their pockets and entrench their stay in power at the expense of the poor.
“The Zanu PF chefs are the ones who are benefiting from this grain scam,” he said.
“Top Zanu PF politicians, including Cabinet ministers, sell their maize to the GMB at this grossly inflated price and they then pocket, before buying the same grain at a cheaper price, this much undeserved profit at the expense of the taxpayers, who actually bankroll the operations of the GMB.
“This is one of the several looting strategies that has been adopted by the outgoing Zanu PF regime.”
People’s Democratic Party deputy president Kucaca Pulu said the scam exposed the failure of Zanu PF policies, which were driven by selfish desires.
“It’s symptomatic of failed Zanu PF policies,” he said.
The maize is already heavily funded through command agriculture and the presidential input scheme, with the former seeing farmers receive inputs and fuel worth $199m from private players in a government deal.
The government will have to repay the $199m from the subsidised grain sales, creating a bigger hole in the already leaking national fiscus.