BY HARRIET CHIKANDIWA
A REPORT by the Public Accounts Committee (Pac) has revealed that the command agriculture programme (CAP) was not properly administered as loans issued to some beneficiaries were yet to be re-paid.
CAP was introduced in 2016 and beneficiaries were supposed to repay loans and pay for agricultural inputs under the programme.
The scheme targeted farmers near water bodies who could put a minimum of 200 hectares under maize per individual. These were found to be 2 000 in total and each farmer was required to produce at least 1 000 tonnes of maize and then commit five tonnes per hectare towards repayment of loans in the form of irrigation equipment, inputs, chemicals, mechanised equipment, electricity and water charges.
Farmers would retain product produced in excess of the 1 000 tonnes. The programme was worth US$500 million, and each farmer was earmarked to receive US$250 000.
Pac chairperson Brian Dube told the National Assembly on Thursday that loans issued under the programme were not repaid, adding that it was difficult to tell which government agency was in charge of the programme.
Pac called for repayment of the loans.
“The Agriculture ministry indicated to the committee that it had no knowledge of the funding of the CAP. However, the committee noted that in the Auditor-General’s report, it had acknowledged transactions with Sakunda under the special maize production programme (US$16 302 201) and loans under the Pedstock facility (US$16 815 940) under CAP. Only US$94 753 was recovered under Pedstock and no recovery was made under Sakunda,” Dube said.
“The Agriculture ministry was not productive and should have played a meaningful role in their operations by interrogating their role in the whole maize production matrix. The Agriculture ministry should ensure that loans issued to beneficiaries are recovered so that the State is able to service the debt.”
The Pac committee report said in its evidence before Parliament, the Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement ministry repeatedly made the point that although theoretically it was being made to account for CAP, it had no knowledge of the same.
“In simple terms they (Lands ministry) disowned command agriculture. When asked specifically who was responsible for command agriculture, more specifically who was the accounting officer for command agriculture, Ringford Chitsiko (Lands ministry secretary) accepted that legally (de jure) he was, but de facto he was not.”
Pac said Chitsiko argued that the Finance ministry was in control in terms of operations of CAP and for day-to-day activities there was a command centre which was replicated at provincial level.”
The committee said government should always adhere to the requirements of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act in order to get competitive prices and value for money.
Dzivarasekwa MP Edwin Mushoriwa said when the Finance ministry was asked to explain why CAP funds were not properly accounted for; it passed the buck to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, saying most of the payments were made by the central bank.
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