SENIOR government officials, including those from the Ministry of Agriculture, feasted on a US$20 million farm mechanisation grant from China after diverting to personal use some of the farm equipment sourced through the facility.
Official documents reveal how the officials, who include senior police officers, soldiers, Zanu PF politicians and top bureaucrats, unprocedurally benefitted from the facility after they were allocated farm equipment ordinarily meant for state departments.
Auditor-General Mildred Chiri initially raised a red flag over the distribution and recording of state assets in her annual 2017 audit report.
The officials have repeatedly been failing to give satisfactory responses to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Public Accounts on how state assets were distributed.
The equipment, which Chiri classified as state assets, was donated to Zimbabwe by the Chinese government through a US$20 million grant for farm mechanisation.
According to Chiri’s audit report for the Ministry of Agriculture’s books as at December 2017, the ministry flouted Treasury regulations by not recording the equipment in the ministry’s master asset register.
In her recommendations, Chiri directed the ministry to avail the Chinese grant agreement for audit inspection.
The donation consisted 200 motorcycles, 30 pick-ups, 36 corn planters, 25 fodder grinders, 36 tractors, 36 disc harrows, 36 farm sprayers, 36 mouldboard ploughs and 36 disc ploughs.
According to the documents seen by the Zimbabwe Independent, the beneficiaries who got Foton tractors include a Mr Muzamhindo from Makonde district, one Gumbo (Makonde), Mr Katsvairo (Mashonaland West), Mr Matibiri (Mazowe), Mr Mhaka (Midlands), Mr Nyathi (Midlands), Mr Raire (Manicaland), Mr Mapingire (Manicaland) and Chief Serima (Gutu).
Others are Mr Ziyambi (Mashonaland West), Mr Mukorera , Mr Museka, Mr Mvundura (Makoni), Hon Marapira (Masvingo), Dr Mguni (Midlands), Dr Nyika (Mashonaland Central), Mr Zata (Mashonaland West) and Mr Munaapi (Mashonaland East).
The Zimbabwe Republic Police (Harare) got 30 motorbikes from the project.
Matibiri, Mhaka, Nyathi, Raire, Mapingire, Chief Serima, Ziyambi , Museka, Mukorera, Mvundura, Dr Nyika and Marapira also went on to get one disc plough each.
Added to the list were Dr Gata (Mashonaland West), Mangwende, Jura, Mvenge, Chinyanyu and Sango whose provinces were not stated.
The list of beneficiaries is contained in a February 2013 letter from the secretary of Finance’s office to the secretary of Agriculture’s office titled: “Authority to receive donation from the People ’s Republic of China”.
“Reference is made to your minute dated 19 December 2012 on the above subject matter. Treasury is hereby granted to accept donation of agricultural equipment and tools worth RMB 15 million from the People’s Republic of China as indicated in your letter.”
The ministry however failed to provide Auditor-General Chiri with the list and she said there was a risk the assets may not be properly safeguarded.
“I was not provided with the file with information of the Grant arrangement. Furthermore, contrary to the provisions of Treasury Instruction 2002 read in conjunction with Section 4.9 of the Government of Zimbabwe Accounting Procedures Manual, the tractors and their respective attachments were not recorded in the Ministry’s Master Asset Register,” she said.
“The Ministry should ensure that the provisions of Treasury Instruction 2002 read in conjunction with Section 4.9 of the Government of Zimbabwe Accounting Procedures Manual are complied with.”
Chiri also noted that the ministry was flouting regulations in the distribution of equipment that had been recovered from Farmers’ World that had been guaranteed by government.
“Contrary to Treasury Instruction 0909, the Ministry collected and distributed to beneficiaries farm equipment recovered from Farmers’ World which had been guaranteed by government. The equipment was given in the form of loans though no monetary value was given. Also contrary to the provisions of Section 4.2 of the Government of Zimbabwe Accounting Procedures Manual, equipment valued at $853 750 from William Bain and Company Holdings (Pvt) Limited comprising of 50 disc harrows, 70 disc ploughs, 10 rippers and 10 trailers was not recorded in the Ministry’s Master Asset Register,” she wrote.
In her report she said there was a risk that the farm equipment might have been irregularly distributed.
Departmental assets may be misappropriated, she noted, adding that the equipment should be properly accounted for.
The management response was that the equipment had been lying idle at Farmers’ World warehouse since the year 2007 without proper accountability and the condition of the equipment did not warrant any meaningful value.
“The implements were distributed as dismantled parts and most of the components were missing. Recovery of this equipment would not be prudent financially as the equipment is beyond its useful life. Contracts were administered to all the beneficiaries of the remaining material. It is important to note that those items failed to perform in the Zimbabwean soil and that is why they remained at Farmers’ World for nine (9) years,” the report reads.