By Costa Nkomo
GOVERNMENT has admitted that there was no transparency in its controversial command agriculture programme.
Mooted a few years ago by then Vice President and now President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the programme has been roundly condemned for allowing those connected to the State to fleece the State of billions.
Recently, Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee led by Harare East MP Tendai Biti heard that some $4 billion had disappeared without trace under the programme with petroleum mogul and Mnangagwa confidant Kuda Tagwirei at the centre of the scam.
Speaking at a post-cabinet media briefing on Monday, Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube admitted there was no transparency in the programme.
“Transparency has been the beef in the command agriculture and fair enough it was opaque. It was opaque but we have opened it up. It’s on the table, it’s in the budget,” Ncube said.
Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa weighed in and revealed government is introducing a new financing model for the farming programme.
“The model is premised on the provision of funding to farmers by commercial banks, with government providing the necessary guarantees. So far, three commercial banks, that is, CBZ, Stanbic and Agribank are participating in the programme.
“Other commercial banks are hereby encouraged to also come on board and support agriculture. All farmers are therefore, invited to approach the aforementioned banks for financial assistance in preparation for the imminent summer agricultural season,” said Mutsvangwa.
“This model will go a long way in ensuring transparency, accountability and sustainability of the Programme.”
Ncube said the involvement of local banks in financing command agriculture will help in running the programme on transparency basis while Parliament will continue with its oversight role.
“Those in Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee will interrogate it because it’s in the budget. Besides they are the ones that allocate the resources. This time is different because working with the banks will ensure further transparency. It will also ensure better management in terms of credits.
“So, I’m confident that there will be better transparency, that is what we are trying to do. The banks that are involved in the programme, they have their auditors. They audit their accounts very clear as to show how the command agriculture is financed. So there is transparency all the way,” the Finance Minister said.