Agribank roped in to manage govt’s US$100 million plus projects

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By Alois Vinga

THE Agricultural Development Bank of Zimbabwe (Agribank) has been requested by government to manage its various repayment facilities.

The move is aimed at improving accountability as well as plug leakages which have resulted in the loss of tax payers’ revenue in the past.

Speaking on the financial institution’s appointment Thursday, Agribank chief executive, Sam Malaba said that the development has positioned the bank to play a pivotal role in the country’s agricultural sector.

“The government has appointed the bank to manage on an agent basis, the US$52 million Belarus equipment facility as well as the US$50 million John Deree Tractors Facility for farm mechanisation. The bank was also appointed on the Pedstock Centre Pivots Facility for the identification and management of phase two beneficiaries amounting to US$10.5 million and includes 80 centre pivots,” he said.

The projects come at a time when government, through central bank, has since availed a $6 million livestock facility covering both working capital and capital expenditures component which has a tenure of five years.

The facility was granted to livestock farmers at a special concessionary rate of 6 % per annum and the bank is also in the process of finalising negotiations on the $20 million local facility from Afreximbank which will be channelled towards capacitating agricultural exporters and value addition.

The move comes at a time when several past government initiated agricultural projects have been associated with theft and alarmingly high levels of poor accountability standards.

Recently, Lands and Agriculture ministry permanent secretary Ringson Chitsiko, and the ministry’s finance director Peter Mudzamiri, revealed that the US$3 billion allocated towards command agriculture during the 2016/17 farming season said in Auditor-General Mildred Chiri’s 2018 report as missing never reached the ministry.

Records to show how the funds were utilised are also not available while huge sums of money which were sunk in the agricultural projects since the turn of the millennium have not been effectively accounted for.

Meanwhile, Agribank reported a profit of $7.2 million during the first half of 2019, representing a 76% growth compared to $4.1 million recorded in the prior year during the comparative period.

The profit for the half year was attributed to non interest incomes from expanded ICT products and e-channels as well as interest income.

Non-interest income grew by 121 % from $7.1 million for the half year of 2018 to close the year at $16 million.