By Anna Chibamu
PARLIAMENTARIANS fumed Tuesday after it turned out that the Dubai Expo drained state coffers millions of dollars in foreign currency in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) recently after parastatals’ top management attended the Dubai Expo.
During deliberations in the House of Assembly, it came out that most of the senior executives in the state-owned enterprises, who appeared before the Lands and Agriculture parliamentary portfolio committee were not equipped with relevant knowledge of what was expected out of them from the Dubai Expo visit, which was fully government-funded.
According to oral evidence given by the management of four parastatals, Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA), Agricultural Rural Development Authority (ARDA), Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC), and Cotton Company of Zimbabwe (COTTCO), the Lands and Agriculture parliamentary committee chairperson Justice Mayor Wadyajena had to adjourn the meeting after the senior parastatal executives failed to satisfy committee members except for ZimTrade, which managed to give financial figures on the deals they clinched in the UAE.
Wadyajena told the committee members there was nothing to show after the government spent the taxpayer’s money for the parastatal executive air travel and stay in Dubai.
“The top executives did not bring anything from the expo reminding them Parliament would call them again for specific details on the expo,” he said.
Parastatals from the agricultural sector attended the Dubai Expo.
However, according to Wadyajena, the parastatals’ presentation on their attendance to the expo was “poor” as reported by MPs who went to Dubai for the same event.
According to a Zanu PF Rushinga MP Tendai Nyabani, the ZimTrade exhibition stand had a poor presentation and this did not impress him at all.
“The ZimTrade stand in Dubai was disappointing. The stand was poorly designed, I was not impressed at all. Even for the tea tasting, we needed to see something really happening and see sachets of tea on display. This does not market the country at all. Some other countries were showcasing their countries’ products well,” Nyabani said.
Another MP, Zanu PF Tafanana Zhou said: “From the way they are explaining the purpose of their visit, this does not dwell well with us. (AMA executive) is talking about arrests of companies that are stealing from clients. When he introduced himself, he spoke about marketing the country. I do not know, was he marketing Zimbabwe through these arrests or what in Dubai?”
However, ZimTrade chief executive Allan Majuru distanced himself from the Dubai Expo telling the committee that the parastatal was not directly involved in the expo but one held in South Africa (Durban Expo).
AFC Holdings chief executive Francis Macheka was stopped midway by Wadyajena from making his presentation as the chairperserson said his oral evidence lacked clarity and substance regarding what the committee expected from their Dubai mandate.
At one point, Macheka was asked to divulge his daily allowance per day during the visit and he told the committee he got US$100 per day which was queried by several members of the committee.
Wadyajena ordered him to bring documentation to the committee clerk to support his oral evidence regarding his per diem.
The Dubai Expo was attended by several senior government ministries and parastatals officials and some allegedly bought lavish cars through allowances.
The committee is yet to ascertain how much was used for the agricultural parastatals at the Dubai Expo.