MPs scold RBZ bosses over Sakunda treasury bills

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By Anna Chibamu

PUBLIC Accounts Committee chair Tendai Biti says parliament will soon recommend the prosecution of some top Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) officials over the reckless issuance of treasury bills (TBs) without seeking parliament’s approval.

During a hearing on Thursday, Biti, who is sitting Harare East MP and ex-finance minister, accused the central bank of unnecessarily generating demand and pushing his former ministry to issue treasury bills amounting to US$2.1 billion in 2017-2018 under the Command Agriculture and Presidential Scheme.

According to Biti, some of the transactions involving US$106 million worth of TBs issued to under-fire oil dealer, Sakunda Holdings were issued twice within a period of four days but were later omitted in accounting books as exposed by the Auditor General’s report.

“Surely, there should be penalties and punishment at individual level. We will recommend to Parliament that you be prosecuted,” Biti said to RBZ officials led by central bank deputy governor Khuphukile Mlambo.

“We are going to make a determination, whether we fail to get the truth you or you were trying to cover up; was it deliberate or accidental. So tell us the truth.

“We are going to make that finding. Mr Muchemwa said he was lying and I understand we got him fired and we do not want you to get fired. No one has the power to define the features of a particular TB. Mr Mlambo, you cannot come here and defend rogueness.

“There is clear evidence that TBs are a by-product of the central bank that it is generating credit acting outside the provisions of the Management Act, Budget and the Procurement Act.”

In his response, Mlambo said “RBZ was acting basing on the current political economic environment which constrains us and it is something we cannot ignore.”

“We care about Zimbabwe. There is no official that does not operate under such any environment the world over,” he said.

“You do not understand the environment that we are working on. It is unfair to condemn us. We operate on a particular political environment. It leads us sometimes to make mistakes.”

Mlambo also said the apex bank had acted on the instructions of then Finance Minister, Patrick Chinamasa who had directed the issuance of the controversial treasury bills.

Mlambo, who was standing in for Mangudya, recommended Biti’s committee should instead summon his boss saying some documents containing information being requested for by MPs was locked up in the central bank chief’s office.

Mangudya is out to New York accompanying President Emmerson Mnangagwa to the UN General Assembly.

Committee member and Kambuzuma MP, Willias Madzimure chided the central bank top official for failing to provide the required information, telling them the RBZ was not a “tuckshop”.

“If the Governor fails to return today, are you saying this is just going to die a natural death and you do not have information on how this came to be? This is an institution and not a tuck-shop,” he said.

RBZ spent more than US$2.1 billion which was not approved by parliament and not part of the national budget in 2017-18 budget.