By Anna Chibamu
GRAIN Marketing Board (GMB) general manager, Clemence Guta on Monday told the Public Accounts parliamentary portfolio committee that the controversial State-funded Command Agriculture was being run by Sakunda Holdings and not the government or its departments.
Sakunda Holdings is a private company owned by maverick businessman, Kuda Tagwirei, who is an ally of President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his deputy, Constantino Chiwenga.
Giving oral evidence before the Public Accounts Parliamentary committee led by Tendai Biti, Guta said GMB was not involved in the Command Agriculture programme despite claims that it received US$1.3 billion in 2017 for the scheme.
He said the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) and the Ministry of Finance were responsible for making payments to Sakunda Holdings.
“We were misled that Lands ministry was responsible for payments of all transactions made yet Command Agriculture was being run by Sakunda,” said Guta.
According to Auditor General Mildred Chiri’s 2018 report, GMB received US$1.3 billion in 2017 towards agricultural inputs under the Command Agriculture programme. It also received US$847 954 725 million for direct payments to various service providers.
Former Lands and Agriculture Permanent Secretary Ringson Chitsiko giving oral evidence during the same portfolio committee last year said the GMB was the recipient of the said amounts.
However, on Monday GMB Finance Director Constancia Dzenga also disputed the figures alleging it had received only US$961 million.
The GMB bosses also denied making payments to various companies engaged under the Command Agriculture programme.
“GMB was not involved in procuring in 2017 and 2018. RBZ did the purchasing and as GMB, we were just a signatory. Our role was to receive and distribute inputs.
“This season we are not a signatory of either Command Agriculture or Presidential scheme. The programme was run by Sakunda Holdings and not us,” said Guta.
Biti told Guta that what the GMB did was gross negligence.
“How do you survive as GMB? You are abusing the grain fund to fund your personal activities,” questioned Biti.
“You should convince this committee not to order a forensic audit of GMB as it turned out later that another US$271 million was paid as direct cash to the GMB in 2017 with US$80 million Treasury Bills (TBs).”
Biti was forced to adjourn the public hearing to another day after GMB officials had asked to be excused for a few minutes to collect some documents detailing transaction details, but only returned after sometime.