By Costa Nkomo
THE Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) has opened investigations into how some beneficiaries of government’s controversial Command Agriculture programme abused the scheme, looting inputs and fuel.
The investigations come amid reports that at least US$4 billion allocated for the programme cannot be accounted for.
ZACC chairperson Justice Loice Matanda-Moyo confirmed the new developments to NewZimbabwe.com this week, although she could not provide concrete details on progress made since the start of the investigations. She said both companies and individuals linked to the programme were being investigated.
However, the probe could open a can of worms as senior Zanu PF and government officials are believed to have illegally gained from the scheme.
“We have started investigating issues around command agriculture. So far we are investigating companies where monies were paid and deliveries were not made and we are also investigating on the beneficiaries who received the inputs but if you get to the ground, there is no commensurate events happening on the fields,” she said.
The ZACC boss said preliminary investigations had also revealed massive looting in farms with beneficiaries giving false information on land prepared and harvests.
“For instance, a person could apply for 200 hectares of fertilisers and seeds but go to the ground, that person has only 30 hectares; so it means that a whole 170 hectares worth of inputs were abused,” the former High Court judge said.
The Command Agriculture programme is the brain-child of President Emmerson Mnangagwa when he was still Vice President during the days of the now late President Robert Mugabe’s rule.
However, the programme has been mired in controversy amid claims of high level corruption by senior Zanu PF and government officials, private companies as well as politically connected individual beneficiaries. Most of the distributed inputs and fuel are reported to have found their way on the black market.
According to the Tendai Biti chaired Parliamentary Committee on Public Accounts, business people with strong links to government looted funds allocated for the programme.
One of the alleged key figures is President Mnangagwa’s ally and fuel mogul, Kudakwashe Tagwirei and his company, Sakunda Holdings.
Last year, the government paid US$366 million bonds to Sakunda Holdings for supplying Command Agriculture inputs and fuel.
The payouts were made in Zimbabwe dollars at an exchange rate that translated into massive money printing, leading to allegations of ‘State capture’, exploitation of public institutions and funds for private interests by Tagwirei.
Meanwhile, Matanda-Moyo said her investigators were following up on the disappearance of 600 000 litres of fuel donated to the Ministry of Justice. The donation was made by a South African-based fuel donor, Gloew Trading.
“We are going to send our compliance department because from the Auditor General’s report. It is not very clear whether she (AG Mildred Chiri) is saying there is a criminal offence which actually transpired or that there was simply lack of accountability on how the fuel was used,” she said.
According to the AG’s report, Gloew Trading donated four million litres of diesel for use by Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS).
The ministry then submitted records to the AG showing that by end of 2018, only 39 000 litres of diesel had been withdrawn from the National Oil Company (NOIC) depot yet at CMED a total of 672 500 litres of fuel had been taken.