THE Ministry of Agriculture has failed to account for the Agricultural Revolving Fund, meant for maintenance and improvement of essential equipment, purchase of livestock drugs and consumables required to improve the level and quality of agricultural services.
According to an audit report released by Auditor and Comptroller-General Mildred Chiri for the financial year ending December 2012, the Agriculture Ministry, led by Joseph Made, failed to give a breakdown or make up of figures disclosed in the consolidated financial statements.
The report has raised questions on the ministry’s level of accountability at a time government is facing huge financial leakages and corruption scandals.
“It was difficult to ascertain the accuracy of the financial statements of the agricultural fund if the breakdown of the figures was not provided. I could not rely on the financial statements because amounts of US$1 066 377 and US$198 152 disclosed by the balance sheet as suspense account in 2010 and 2011 respectively were not explained satisfactorily,” Chiri wrote in the report.
It was also discovered that cashbooks for several departments in the ministry were not updated and reconciled with bank statements.
Furthermore, the agricultural revolving fund accounting system was not computerised making it difficult to ascertain whether all the transactions for the financial years 2009-2011 were fully captured in the accounts.
Chiri recommended that the ministry should always provide the breakdown or make up of the figures disclosed in the financial statements in order to reflect their composition.
Commenting on the audit report, economist John Robertson said taxpayers money has been clearly abused and government officials are sleeping on the job.
He said the lack of accountability has a bearing on the future of the agricultural sector, hence responsible authorities should stop embezzlement of funds.
“This suggests that people in authority should punish offenders. It raises suspicion when people who should take action against culprits fail to do so,” he said.
Commercial Farmers union spokesperson Hendrik Olivier said details point to worrisome leakages in the use of taxpayers’ money.
“There is need for a comprehensive agricultural policy and creation of a platform to discuss all these issues with relevant stakeholders so as to plug these loopholes. There is need for a good reporting system and proper disbursement of machinery,” said Olivier.
In 2010 the parliamentary portfolio committee on public accounts presented to parliament a damning report from the Comptroller and Auditor General in which the Ministry of Agriculture was fingered for gross irregularities in the management of government assets.
The accounting officer for the ministry accepted that US$21 738 was diverted from the agriculture revolving fund to meet administration and general expenses, including payment for the minister’s business cards, Internet router, head office provisions, and the minister’s hotel bill.
In June this year the Zanu PF Youth League in partnership with Lasch, a local company, launched a US$2,4 billion agriculture revolving fund in which 800 000 new farmers were to receive over US$3 000 each in agricultural support in the 2014/15 farming season. It is still unclear if this fund will materialise or suffer a still birth.