Govt pays US$400 million funeral parlour to supply fertliser for Command Agriculture

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By Anna Chibamu

TREASURY paid US$400 million to a funeral assurance company for the supply of Command Agriculture fertiliser, Parliament heard on Monday.

Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Public Accounts chaired by opposition MDC vice president Tendai Biti heard that a company only known as FSG but with no known address or contact person was paid almost half a billion in foreign currency. Nothing has been recovered.

The revelations left Biti seething with anger and the former Finance Minister flipped describing Treasury as a ‘rotten department.’

FSG, a funeral parlour, was reportedly paid US$400 million for the supply of fertiliser and ministry officials who appeared before the committee admitted they had no information as to who owns the company or where it is domiciled.

“Who are directors of this company known as FSG? Who is FSG? (Paymaster General, Daniel) Muchemwa, (Ministry chief principal director, Zvinechimwe) Churu, and Ngurura all you cannot tell this committee that you do not know who FSG is? So what are you doing there (Finance Ministry). Your Ministry is rotten then,” said Biti.

The Harare East lawmaker was not done yet.

“You know you are under oath. You do not know your clients? How is it possible that you pay US$400 million to someone you do not know?

“I put it to you that you are trying to mislead us. If you pay something to someone you do not know it is illegal according to the laws of this country. Everyone here knows it is a crime. Paying clients without due diligence. How does that happen? The whole ministry is rotten,” an angry Biti said.

Churu emotionally retorted: “I refuse to accept that we are rotten. The Ministry is not rotten. You are free to write what you want. We are not rotten. Our rating in the international forum is not what you are saying. Our fiscal policy is well managed. We are not going to accept you calling us rotten. I am not emotional but I am professional.”

“Our focus is on financing. Anything to do with procurement has nothing to do with us. If you go to Boka there is that company known as FSG. I bought fertiliser from that company. Ask any one of the fertiliser unions. They will tell you that I am not lying.”

Churu, after being confronted over why he had not contracted well-known companies such as Zimbabwe Fertiliser Company (ZFC) and Sable Chemicals to supply the agricultural inputs to the Command Agriculture scheme, claimed the said companies did not have access to foreign currency.

However, it emerged government paid FSG in hard currencies.

According to AG’s report, the command Agriculture has gobbled almost US$5 Billion dominated by “dodgy” payments.

It was not however clear as to whether the company mentioned by the committee as having benefitted is the same as FSG a funeral assurance company operating in Zimbabwe.