Biti fumes after ‘funeral parlour’, ministry officials dodge his committee

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By Anna Chibamu

PUBLIC Accounts chair Tendai Biti was Monday left fuming after a fertiliser firm which benefited from an opaque government deal, and Finance Ministry officials failed to turn up for hearing before his committee.

Officials from the under-fire Fertilizer, Seed and Grain (Pvt) Ltd), a former funeral parlour, and those from the ministry, face arrest for failure to turn up for hearings.

Biti told journalists on Monday that the company’s former director, Steve Morland has twice absconded his committee hearings but has managed to attend hearings by the lands committee.

“FSG has been the recipients of millions of dollars under the Presidential Input Scheme,” Biti said.

“So consistently, the work we have been doing in the last three months or so…FSG and Sakunda (Holdings) are key to the work that this committee is doing.

“We are extremely disappointed that whilst FSG was quick to avail itself to the Lands Committee, they avoided attendance at this meeting…in wilful default.

“We are therefore directing Clerk of Parliament Kennedy Chokuda to issue a warrant of arrest against F. Morland Managing Director of FSG for defaulting on October 14, 2019 and today (27th October 2019.

“We are summoning the company to appear before this committee on 22 November, 2019 together with another motor vehicle company,” said Biti.

A former minister under the same portfolio, Biti gave Finance Ministry officials the last chance to attend after which his committee will move to take action.

The officials are supposed to give oral evidence on government’s money-spinning Command Agriculture programme in which millions of dollars are unaccounted for.

“Ministry of Finance officials comprising of Principle director of Budgets Zvinechimwe Churu, director Capital Expenditure Fidelis Ngorora, Accountant General, one Zvandasara…supplied written documents to this committee which actually raises more questions than answers.

“We want them to clarify on that. Today, they have defaulted on our request to attend this meeting saying they are attending a workshop in Darwendale.

“This is not the first time that the Finance ministry officials have defaulted.

“You recall that in our first report to Parliament, we highlighted two instances that they defaulted.

“They told us they had been attending a workshop at Wild Geese Resort and then secondly, they basically pretended that they did not know they had been summoned.

“We have insisted and made it very clear in our first report on the Ministry of Finance that the business of Parliament supersedes anything else that they may be doing.

“Our oversight role as defined by Section 117 and Section 119 of the Constitution is very clear that parliament exercises serious oversight role over all public institutions over all persons.

“With regards to this committee in particular, it enjoys a unique privilege of pursuing every dollar that comes into the consolidated revenue funds in terms of Section 298 and Section 299 of the constitution.

“We are very saddened by the continuous disrespect of parliament, so we are giving the Ministry of Finance one more chance before we direct the Clerk of Parliament Kennedy Chokuda to issue a warrant of arrest as he is permitted to do so by the Parliamentary Privileges Act.

“So, we are re-summoning the Finance ministry to appear before this committee on 15 November 2019.”