CYBER Security minister Patrick Chinamasa has been saved by the bell as he can no longer appear before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environment to answer to allegations that he used his clout as Finance minister to wrest administration of the Afforestation Fund from the Forestry Commission in order to place it under the Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (TIMB).
BY VENERANDA LANGA
TIMB is chaired by Chinamasa’s wife Monica, and the Environment Committee had invited the former Finance minister to appear for grilling on Monday over suspected nepotism in the transfer of funds from Forestry Commission to TIMB.
Chinamasa has been reshuffled to another ministry.
Environment Committee chairperson Wonder Mashange yesterday told NewsDay that instead, the committee would summon Chinamasa’s successor Ignatius Chombo over the same issue.
“As a committee, we want to get accountability for the Afforestation Fund because we asked TIMB to give us proof of where they got the mandate to administer the Afforestation Fund, but they have failed to produce the proof and we are still waiting for them to do so,” Mashange said.
“We will just give the Finance minister (Chombo) some time to settle and then we will summon him to appear before the committee to clarify the issue because we can no longer call Chinamasa to do so because he is no longer the responsible minister.”
When the committee invited TIMB in March, Chinamasa’s wife Monica absented herself.
The Afforestation Fund is financed by tobacco farmers who pay a fee so that new trees can be grown. Between 2015 and 2016, at least $14,2 million was collected to go towards the fund.
Mashange said according to the Tobacco Levy Afforestation Fund legislation, it is supposed to be administered by the Forestry Commission.
“We are losing a lot of forests through farmers and government came up with the levy which is supposed to be administered by the Forestry Commission. The TIMB mandate has nothing to do with growing trees, it has to do with regulating tobacco trade and we need to get to the bottom of the matter to find out where they got that mandate to administer the
Afforestation Fund,” he said.