Anti-graft body swoops on Command Agric looters

09 Feb, 2020 - 00:02 0 Views
Anti-graft body swoops on Command Agric looters

The Sunday Mail

Brian Chitemba
Investigations Editor

The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) has begun swooping on farmers and companies that were repackaging inputs obtained from the Special Grain and Oil Seed programme — commonly known as Command Agriculture — and selling them for personal gain.

The abuse of Command Agriculture inputs is one of the high-profile cases that are being investigated by the corruption-fighting body.

Some warehouses belonging to big companies have since been raided.

ZACC chair, Justice Loice Matanda-Moyo, told The Sunday Mail that there were farmers, some of whom own up to 300 hectares of farmland, who used their offer letters to access fertilisers and seed.

It is alleged that instead of using farming inputs for the intended purpose, the farmers reportedly connived with big fertiliser and seed companies to repackage the inputs.

ZACC, which elected not to name the big companies and farmers for fear of jeopardising investigations, says it recovered 440 tonnes of fertiliser in one of the raided warehouses and one tonne of sugar beans seed.

“We are still investigating this matter but so far we have closed some warehouses. We are giving the owners a chance to explain themselves at ZACC offices, failure of which the commission will seize the inputs which were looted from the Grain Marketing Board (GMB),” said Justice Matanda-Moyo.

“ZACC will do a sweep on the farmers and the big companies because we do not tolerate corruption.”

Arrests of those found on the wrong side of the law, she added, are now imminent.

Command Agriculture was introduced in 2016 to boost agricultural production.

Government has since handed over the administration of the scheme to commercial banks.

As part of efforts to deepen the fight against graft, ZACC is finalising the recruitment of 22 auditors, lawyers, procurement, and financial intelligence and cybercrime investigators.

Some of the key investigations had been shelved as the commission adjudged they could be better handled by experts.

One of the key areas under investigation is the gold sector.

“We also want to investigate and manage mineral leakages; there is need to identify leakages from gold production to buyers and to Fidelity Printers. We will be arresting, recovering and closing loopholes as we deal decisively with corruption,” said the ZACC chair.

Also, some banks are being investigated for establishing facilities through which they would exchange cash payouts for deposits higher than the principal sum sought by desperate depositors.

“They have institutionalised corruption because, for instance, if someone wants $10 000 cash, the client is told to deposit $13 000. Banks have become dealers by not adhering to banking ethos. We will be working with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to monitor some of these financial institutions who are deeply involved in cash problems,” said the ZACC boss.

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