By Alois Vinga
FORMER Finance Minister Tendai Biti has hinted that government’s Command Agriculture programme has been hampered by corruption.
Speaking at the International Public Sector Accounting Standards third meeting Wednesday morning, Biti drew parallels between Zimbabwe and Malawi claiming the country’s northern neighbour spends far less and produces more in maize production.
“I met Malawi’s Agriculture Minister recently, when I travelled to that country to launch a book and on the sidelines he revealed that they are producing around 3.2 million metric tons of maize despite their small geographic size and worse still after investing far lower than the US$4 million Zimbabwe spent on inputs.
“What is disturbing is to note that we only produced around 1 million tons of maize after such a huge investment. Right now over five million people are in need of food aid despite having spent heavily on an agricultural program,” Biti told participants.
The former treasury boss bemoaned the extent to which corruption continues to bedevil the country’s economic recovery efforts.
“Corruption kills the economy because there is always a premium attached on every dollar and certainly 50 percent of money being moved in a corrupt environment will surely not reach its intended destination,” he said.
According to government records the 2016-17 of the Command Agriculture programme yielded surplus maize, with claims the country was running out of storage space.
However government made a u-turn and revealed that only seven months stock of maize is in store now.
The Harare East legislator also condemned massive embezzlement of funds in the mining sector.
“Last year the Minister of Finance revealed that he had managed to collect US$10 million through diamond sales and during my tenure around US$5 million was remitted but these amounts are still very small considering figures that are released by institutions like Kimberly Diamonds,” Biti said.
He vowed that through parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, government departments and parastatals must expect scrutiny which will expose all the non-compliance issues.
Biti however applauded the office of the Auditor General for its due diligence which has exposed the corruption in handling public finances.