$8m afforestation funds lie idle

Parliament passed the Constitution Amendment No. 1 Bill. This is despite that the amendments had been rejected during public hearings on the Bill

THE $8 million collected by Treasury for the Afforestation Fund in 2015 by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) and deposited into the Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (TIMB) account has not yet been disbursed for reforestation projects.

This was disclosed by Lands and Agriculture minister Perrance Shiri last week when he told legislators that Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa had not yet presented the fund’s constitution before Parliament.

He was responding to a question by Chegutu West MP Dextor Nduna (Zanu PF) on Wednesday.

Nduna had asked Shiri to explain how much had been collected from the tobacco levy to date to go towards the Afforestation Fund, and whether TIMB had made progress in establishing woodlots from the fund.

“The funds [afforestation] are collected and retained by Zimra, and the levy in 2015 was
$8 011 579 and was transferred into the TIMB account,” Shiri said

“No progress has been made in establishing woodlots towards the fund because the constitution of the Afforestation Fund is yet to be presented to and registered with Parliament as per the requirements of the Public Finance Management Act, [Chapter 22 (19) by the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning,” he said.

The Afforestation Fund is still mired in controversy, with the Forestry Commission recently appearing before Parliament to claim that TIMB, whose board chairperson is Chinamasa’s wife Monica, had wrested the fund from them.

The fund is targeted at producing seedlings to replenish forests that would have been destroyed by tobacco farmers at a rate of 330 000 hectares per year contributing to 15% of deforestation.

The Forestry Commission had already opened a bank account (CBZ account number 03323217810039) which was specifically for the Afforestation Fund and had begun preparing a constitution on how it was going to be utilised.

But, their plans were curtailed when Chinamasa in his 2017 budget statement announced that the fund would now be administered by TIMB.

The issue is still being investigated by the Wonder Mashange-led Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environment, where Chinamasa is expected to appear soon before the committee to explain his decision to appoint TIMB to administer the fund.