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Chefs block CSC audit execution

TINASHE MAKICHI

Top chefs in the ministry of Agriculture are resisting the implementation of a Cold Storage Commission (CSC) audit findings which unearthed how senior managers and board members were milking off the parastatal, it has emerged.

An investigation by Business Times revealed that several of them are now in the spotlight due to a number of allegations including asset stripping and the stealing at least of 10 000 cattle through government’s cattle heifer breed schemes.

There were unsanctioned awarding of long-term leases of company assets for a song to top officials or their associates.

Some political big wigs are also said to be beneficiaries of questionable lease agreements and are now listed as long-standing tenant debtors, resulting in CSC losing huge amounts of dollars in potential revenue.

Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement minister, Anxious Masuka, was a member of the last CSC board that failed to implement the recommendations of the audit report to turn around the fortunes of the struggling meat processor.

He was appointed to the CSC board in April 2017 by former Agriculture minister Joseph Made alongside Sylvia Khumalo Jiyane (board chairperson), Nemrod Chiminya (deputy chairperson), Emily Mumbengegwi, Peter Nyoni, Cecilia Paradza, Bekhithemba Nkomo, Rufaro Mazunze, Khodholo Setaboli, Unesu Ushewwokunze Obatolu and engineer Reston Muzamhindo.

The board was, however, fired last year.

Ngoni Chinogaramombe was the chief executive officer of CSC.

“Several top chefs in the ministry are reluctant to implement audit findings which unearthed a massive rot at the parastatal. Some of the bosses are implicated, that’s why they won’t implement it,” one of the well-placed sources at the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, and Rural Resettlement told Business Times this week.

This has scared the new investor at the CSC, which wants those implicated in the rot to be brought to book.

But, the proposed move has been blocked.

Efforts to get a comment from Masuka were futile as he was not picking calls.

The rot was also contained in an application to place CSC under receivership to avoid liquidation by Masuka.

The High Court appointed Ngoni Kudenga as the interim judicial manager charged with the mandate to control the parastatal’s assets.

Kudenga, who is the managing partner at BDO Zimbabwe Chartered Accountant, was the president of the Zimbabwe Agricultural Society where Masuka was the CEO prior to his appointment as a Cabinet Minister last year.

The plunder by government officials, former board members and senior managers has led to the demise of CSC, once the biggest beef processor in Africa, handling up to 150 000 tonnes of beef and associated products per year and exporting to the European Union.

Consequently, private abattoirs, some of which are hiring CSC facilities, have moved in to fill the void left by the parastatal in the domestic market.In 2019, the government entered into a partnership agreement with a United Kingdom based investor, Boustead Limited, to revive CSC.

The investor promised to inject about US$130m into CSC over 5 years for the purpose of reviving operations, refurbishing the industrial assets, ranches, feedlots and residential properties.

It was also to assume any outstanding legacy creditors, affording the respondent relief to its financial woes.

Boustead Limited has been frustrated and is finding it difficult to implement its strategies.

Masuka admitted the investor was facing resistance to implement business initiatives meant to turn the company’s fortunes around, including the implementation of a recent audit which unearthed the rot by former senior managers, board members and top Ministry officials.

“It also came to light that there continues to be rampant corruption and unlawful dissipation of assets by certain executive members, board members, government officials and officials of the respondent.

“More than 10 000 herd of cattle have been misappropriated in the government cattle heifer breed scheme,” reads part of Masuka application for CSC to be placed under a judicial manager.

Sources at the ministry told Business Times that the situation at CSC was complicated to an extent that corruption has continued unabated as some of the officials in the ministry were part of the CSC board that was dissolved by former Minister Perrance Shiri over the same allegations of corruption.

It also appeared the government sold a dummy to the British investor by dangling an empty asset that was facing a litany of lawsuits with some of the assets discussed in the deal already attached by creditors.

It emerged that for example, ZAMCO attacked CSC’s Bulawayo Abattoir and the canning factory to settle an   around ZWL$4m while there are other numeral pending court cases and orders which are ready to be executed by creditors anytime.

Other creditors include National Social Security Authority and ZESA Holdings among others.

There are indications that since the inception, the investor has faced massive resistance from CSC executives.

According to documents seen by Business Times this week, former management at CSC have to date failed to cooperate with the investor to an extent that it has been a futile exercise for the investor to move forwards.

There are indications that former employees went to an extent of deleting company information from the hard drives of company computers and destroyed all important documents such as employee records, cattle loan schemes and bank account details.

Efforts to get a comment from Boustead Zimbabwe chief executive Nick Havercroft were fruitless.

The documents further stated that CSC is currently in control of approximately 25% of its assets and there are allegations that former board members and executives corruptly allocated themselves, family and other individuals various ranches and homesteads denying the investor access to these assets to refurbish, develop and restock. fffffffffff

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