VINCENT MHENE IN GWERU
Top officials in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water, and Rural Resettlement looted agricultural machinery and equipment acquired through a Chinese government grant, Business Times has established.
The allegations of the looting are contained in a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report tabled in Parliament. The report covers the period between 2017 and 2018.
The report also revealed that the top officials allocated the farm equipment and machinery to themselves. It also disclosed allegations of massive corruption, theft, leakages, and misappropriations within the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water, and Rural Resettlement.
The committee’s report is based on an inquiry that was informed by findings in the 2018 Auditor General`s audit report.
The report revealed that the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water, and Rural Resettlement received 36 tractors, 200 motorbikes, and 30 motor vehicles worth US$15m as a donation from China.
“The Ministry received 36 tractors, 30 motor vehicles, and 200 motorbikes through a grant from the Republic of China. The assets were not recorded in the Ministry’s Master Asset Register and the Grant Agreement was not availed for audit inspection,” read the report.
According to the report, the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water, and Rural Resettlement took custody of the goods and “distributed the equipment.”
“He (director of mechanisation) indicated that after delivery, the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Fisheries, and Rural Resettlement had distributed the equipment,” reads the report.
“The director of mechanisation indicated that he thought the list of beneficiaries had been shared with the auditors. He stated that some of the equipment had been distributed to institutions and some to individuals. The director submitted that the distribution of the equipment had been done at ministerial level and the ministry was working backward to get the information.”
It added: “From the distribution list submitted, out of the 36 Foton tractors, 18 were distributed to individuals, the majority of which consisted of public officials in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Fisheries and Rural Resettlement and Irrigation Development. Of the 36-disc ploughs, 18 were again distributed to individuals with 11 of the beneficiaries of the tractors being ministry officials.”
“Furthermore, equipment valued at $853 750 acquired from William Bain was not recorded in the ministry`s Master Asset register.”
The committee report also revealed that ministry officials had shared some equipment bought by the government among themselves.
The report said 18 Foton tractors and 11 disc-ploughs from the Chinese grant and Command Agriculture mechanisation programme had been given to individuals who worked within the Lands and Agriculture ministry.
The ministry, according to the report, purchased 10 motor vehicles in 2017 from Solution Motors and paid the company in advance but only received six vehicles and the remaining four worth US$$207 540 were never delivered and followed up on.
“Furthermore, in terms of the technical specifications of the contract, Solutions Motors was supposed to have delivered the motor vehicles with canopies and bull bars and all the six motor vehicles delivered had no such accessories,” read the report.
PAC Chairperson Brian Dube, who is the legislator for Gweru urban, said the inquiry report pointed to a contravention of public finance management regulations and “looting” of public resources.
“We presented in Parliament as Public Accounts Committee, our agriculture report for 2017 and 2018, where we realised that the donations that were given by China to Zimbabwe in form of equipment were actually distributed among the government officials in the ministry without regard to institutions such as agricultural training centres and other farmers actually looted the resources for themselves,” Dube told Business Times.
Dube added that the committee had recommended that the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission conduct investigations into the affairs of the lands and agriculture ministry within 90 days of the tabling of the report.
The committee also recommended that the “Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Fisheries and Rural Resettlement must recover the value of the equipment (US$853 750) from the officials within 90 days, if necessary.”
All efforts to get a comment from the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water, and Rural Resettlement, Anxious Masuka, and Solution Motors were futile.
Contacted for a comment, ZACC spokesperson John Makamure told Business Times: “We have not yet received the report. We will certainly launch investigations once we receive them. The PAC should write formally to the ZACC chairperson.”