PARLY: Public Accounts Committee Says Command Agriculture Payments Above Board; Sakunda Received $664mln

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By Staff Reporter

PARLIAMENT of Zimbabwe’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) says the Treasury Bills controversially issued to partners involved in the specialised maize programme popularly known as command agriculture were above board.

Several companies, including oil firm Sakunda Holdings, FSG, Quton, Pedstock, Sable Chemicals, Seedco, Valley Seeds, Windmill and ZFC.

However, Sakunda became the chief beneficiary and thus it became the central focus of a wider corruption inquiry.

The programmes, run by government between 2016 and 2018, came under heavy criticism after allegations of corruption was levelled against both Sakunda and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) which issued the TBs.

Former Harare East legislator Tendai Biti pushed hard for an investigation of the dealings during his tenure as PAC chair before he was recalled from the august House in 2020.

At the time, Sakunda claimed the investigation was funded by Western donors from the United Kingdom and the United States, countries which imposed sanctions on Sakunda and its chief executive officer Kuda Tagwirei over his alleged involvement in corrupt dealings.

After Biti was jettisoned from parliament in controversial circumstances, PAC proceeded with the investigation under the chairmanship of Gweru Urban legislator Brian Dube.

The committee, in the subsequent report presented in the National Assembly on March 3, said Sakunda, along with the other companies which participated in the programme, fully accounted for its participation in command agriculture, but found faults in government’s obscure accounting systems.

The committee said: “Total payment to Sakunda for 2017 was $378 739 319,75 and for 2018 it was $235954 143 85. Total payments in 2017 and 2018 for Presidential Scheme is $573 392 887,33 (paid to FSG – $ 392,853,180.22; Quton – $19,753,638.00; Pedstock – $7,538,441.69; Cottco – $30,898,812.65; Sakunda $51,205,481.25; Sable Chemicals – $4,900,00; Seedco – $40,150,000.00; Valley Seeds – $8,700,000; Windmill – $17,800,000; and ZFC – $17,750,000.)”

“The contracts were facilitated by Special Cabinet Authority and thus were not subjected to public tendering processes. The Government uses Special Cabinet Authority in exigent circumstances, such as guaranteeing food security through initiatives like Command Agriculture,” the report reads.

Several previous reports, including on by US-based investigative and policy organisatios, The Sentry, indicated that Sakunda was a beneficiary of systemic State corruption.

Public Accounts Committee noted that government issued Treasury Bills to at least 10 companies contracted for Command Agriculture and the Presidential Inputs Support Scheme.

A Treasury Bill is a negotiable debt instrument issued by the Government through the minister of Finance and Economic Development.

“According to the RBZ, Sakunda was paid $429 944 801 in 2017 and $233 937 461 in 2018 which comes to a total of $663 882 262.00 (in Treasury Bills),” the report notes.

For companies like FSG, Valley Seeds and ZFC, among others, participating in the Presidential Inputs Support Scheme targeting smallholders, Treasury Bills totalling $258 362 845 were paid to suppliers in 2017 and $263 824 560 69 was paid in 2018.

The committee expressly stated that the TBs “were properly issued to Sakunda Holdings”.

However, the committee expressed concern over the manner in which the ministry of Finance and Economic Development, then headed by Patrick Chinamasa, disbursed the funds.

“The committee is very concerned with the ministry of Finance’s recurring habit of making direct payments to service providers without providing relevant documentation to line ministries,” the report reads.