Committee chairperson and Goromonzi North MP Paddy Zhanda on Monday asked the central bank chief why the bank entered into a contract with Farmtec, a company purportedly co-owned by former central bank senior official Elias Musakwa.
The Reserve Bank four years ago embarked on a farm mechanisation exercise aimed at retooling black farmers that benefited from the land reform exercise at the turn of the millennium.
The equipment restocking exercise was part of the central bank’s quasi-fiscal operations which critics blamed for accelerating economic decline during the past decade.
The central bank, however, maintains that the exercise was a “sanctions-busting” strategy to sustain government after Western governments isolated President Robert Mugabe’s administration for alleged gross human rights violations.
Zhanda asked Gono whether the apex bank had been thorough in observing tender procedures. MDC-T legislators Webber Chinyadza and Willas Madzimure also took turns to grill the central bank boss.
“Farmtec is purported to be owned by one of your former employees, so one will be curious to know, did that employee declare his interest in participating in the tender that was floated by the Reserve Bank,” Zhanda said. “I think the owner in particular must have been Musakwa. The details that we have are that he was actually involved in the farm mechanisation programme and could have been part of Farmec.”
Gono in his response said the bank, with the approval of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farm Mechanisation, scrutinised the tenderers. He further revealed that Farmtec is linked to a late government official believed to be former Zanu PF secretary of the commissariat and former minister without portfolio Elliot Manyika.
“To the best of my knowledge, the employee concerned whoever he is or she is, I’m not aware of that,” Gono said. “But I’m aware of a late senior member of government who was a part shareholder of that. I’m not privy to the details of the other owners. But I will be interested to.”
In September our sister newspaper, The Standard, cited a central bank correspondence which confirmed that in 2008, Manyika, through Farmtec, entered into an agreement with the central bank to supply 150 tractors to the bank under the farm mechanisation exercise.
Recent media reports, however, show that Farmtec also trades as Elimobil Enterprises, a company reportedly linked to Musakwa.
Madzimure then asked Gono to “furnish the committee with the people who were responsible for vetting” potential tenderers when the deal was struck nearly three years ago. Chinyadza on the other hand asked the central bank chief to inform the committee on which exchange rate was used when the Farmtec sued the bank for non-payment of the tractors supplied.
Gono said he would further make an inquiry into the tender.
“From the details that seem to be emerging, Mr chairman, relating to the Farmtec issue, it would seem to me that your committee is privy or has certain information which the governor does not actually have or is not privy to,” Gono said. “Such things do happen in the realm of life. I would say I cannot comment beyond what I basically said except to say we are going to look at it a little bit more and if there are more facts to this, we will be delighted to defend with these.”
Farmtec is one of the several companies that obtained a writ of execution from the High Court that saw assets of the RBZ being auctioned for a song across the country.
The seizure of the assets was blocked by a presidential decree following recommendations by Finance minister Tendai Biti that government had to protect the assets of the apex bank.