‘Private firms got US$1,1bn for command agric’

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Command agric’

By Harriet Chikandiwa
THE Public Accounts Committee (Pac) says government extended US$1,1 billion to private companies that took part in the command agriculture programme between 2016 and 2019.

The biggest beneficiary, however, was the State-controlled Grain Marketing Board (GMB) which received US$2,5 billion over that period.

The report by Pac — which is chaired by MDC Alliance’s Brian Dube, was tabled in the National Assembly on March 3.

Dube said the committee received submissions from the ministries of Finance, Agriculture and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ).

From May 2019 to March 2020, Pac received oral and documentary evidence from the Agriculture ministry, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, and the Grain Marketing Board.

rom the private sector, the committee summoned Sakunda Holdings, Croco Motors, Solution Motors, Valley Seeds, Pedstock, and FSG (Ferts, Seed and Grain).

“Total payments to Sakunda for 2017 was US$378 739 319,75 and for 2018 it was US$235 954 143,85,” the Pac report showed while several other companies took part in the programme under the Special Cabinet Authority.

“Total payments in 2017 and 2018 for presidential scheme is US$573 392 887,33 paid to FSG — US$392 853 180,22; Quton — US$19 753 638,00; Pedstock — US$7 538 441,69; Cottco —US$30 898 812,65; Sakunda — US$51 205 481,25; Sable Chemicals — US$4 900 00; SeedCo — US$40 150 000; Valley Seeds — US$8 700 000; Windmill — US$17 800 000; and ZFC — US$17 750 000,” the report showed.

The RBZ paid US$429 944 801 in 2017 and US$233 937 461 in 2018 to Sakunda using Treasury Bills.

FSG and ZFC, which were participating in the Presidential Inputs Support Scheme targeting smallholders, received Treasury Bills totalling US$258 362 845 in 2017 and US$263 824 560,69 in 2018.

However, the contracts were facilitated by special Cabinet authority and were not subject to public tendering processes to shore up food security, it has since emerged.

Pac took exception to apparent poor communication between the Agriculture and Finance ministries.

Dzivarasekwa legislator Edwin Mushoriwa said the challenge was the manner in which the command agriculture or the special maize programme were done.

“As indicated by the chairperson, the Agriculture ministry claims they are the ones that are responsible for agriculture, they claimed that all the payments that were done under the command agriculture, they were not aware of,” Mushoriwa said.

“They were given instructions by the Finance and Economic Development ministry to process.

When we asked the Finance minister to explain, the minister instead of properly answering the question, passed the buck to the RBZ, saying most of the payments were made by RBZ.”

Norton MP Temba Mliswa weighed in saying: “The word in town was US$3 billion has been looted.  May credit be given to Pac for doing due diligence to break down the $3 billion.

I remember seeing a headline saying US$3 billion goes to Sakunda — Parliament in its role of oversight then called everybody to understand exactly what happened.”

He added: “The special programme on maize production for import substitution, which was known as Command Agriculture, was inclusive . . . The programme was noble and it remains noble because farmers need to be empowered … at no point did Sakunda get $US3,6 billion.”

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