Sakunda admits dodging tender to seal Command Agriculture deals

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By Anna Chibamu

CONTROVERSIAL fuel mogul Kudakwashe Tagwirei’s Sakunda Holdings has admitted dodging tender processes as per national laws to seal a lucrative deal to supply government’s Command Agriculture inputs and equipment for the 2016 to 2018 winter and summer agricultural seasons.

Giving oral evidence before the Tendai Biti led Public Accounts Parliamentary portfolio committee, company Chief Operating Officer Charles Chitambo said Sakunda Holdings was, instead, approached by government together with 40 other entities to take part in the programme.

Chitambo however failed to explain how the company managed to satisfy government it was best candidate to supply the inputs and equipment that involved vehicles.

He however told the committee Sakunda had enough money to undertake the demanding job.

Chitambo revealed Sakunda financed the purchase of inputs, wheat and grain seed, motor vehicles and protective clothing.

“We had a cabinet authority to cover both the Command Agriculture and the Presidential scheme.

“There was a tri-partite agreement among Finance and Lands ministries and Sakunda Holdings. We submitted documents, statements but I do not know if it was a bidding system. We did not tender.

“Government invited us with 40 other companies. Sakunda did not go to government.

“They (government) invited us to rescue the agricultural sector of this country,” said Chitambo.

The company owned by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s top ally has been hogging the limelight for all the wrong reasons, having been accused of misusing public funds.

The Auditor General’s report of 2018 exposed the rot within the government run agricultural scheme with the firm fingered in the plunder of over US$3 billion in taxpayers’ money since 2016.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, Finance and Agriculture ministries have all admitted Sakunda Holdings received more than US$3 billion since the inception of the programme.

However, Chitambo was furious about this and warned those spreading “false” information while also accusing some unnamed committee members of being among culprits.

“I am hoping that at the end of our discussion, all those inaccuracies must be plummeted. The allegations have come from members of this committee,” added Chitambo.

Asked why government chose the firm as opposed to using traditional seed and equipment suppliers, Chitambo said government was a borrower and Sakunda was financier as it had the money even though it later turned out that government paid the company US$1.1 billion in the period 2016-17.

According to committee members, Sakunda also received US$366 million in treasury bills in 2019 which remained USD denominated even after the multi-currency system was scrapped by government.

Chitambo said part of the money (US$204 million) was returned back to the RBZ.

Biti bemoaned lack of checks and balances in the transactions, no monitoring systems and compliance by Sakunda especially on the tendering process which was never followed at all.

“No one is in charge; on reconciling of accounts no one is available, no checks and balances in your accounting books, someone above Sakunda not monitoring. There is a blank cheque,” said Biti who demanded some documents such as proof of payment for the US$204 million and agreement documents between government and Sakunda.