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Command Agriculture saga: Biti digs deeper.

By James Martin

Treasury in 2018 paid USD$400 million to a funeral parlour called FSG to supply fertilisers and seed for the Command Agriculture program, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Public Accounts has heard.

This revelation comes barely two weeks after the Ministry of Agriculture professed ignorance to the US$3.2 billion which it is alleged to have received from treasury which is not supported by any documentation.

Instead, the Agriculture Ministry told Parliament that treasury wrote letters to it ordering them to assume the expenditure they did not incur amounting (USD$3.2 billion) in 2017 and 2018 farming seasons.

However, chief principal director Zvinechimwe Churu and the accountant general Daniel Muchemwa stunned legislators when they failed to furnish Parliament with details of US$400million which was paid to FSG whose core business is funeral services.

“Who is FSG? Who are the directors of this company?

Muchemwa, Churu and Ngurura you can’t say you don’t know who FSG is?” Tendai Biti queried.

In his response to the questions and with agreement from his team Churu answered: “I can say I do not know.”

Biti, however, would have none of it as he continued to press Churu and his company to tell the truth.

“You know you are under oath. You don’t know your clients?

“How is it possible that you pay US$400 million to someone who you don’t know? How does it happen?

“If you pay something to someone whom you don’t know it is illegal according to the laws of this country.  Everyone here knows it is a crime,” Biti added.

Churu instead went defensive saying his responsibility was to facilitate payment not to look into the procurement issues.

“Our focus is on financing. Anything to do with procurement has nothing to do with us. If you go to Boka there is that company known as FSG. I once bought fertiliser from that company,” he said.

Accountant general Daniel Muchemwa admitted to the committee that FSG is a funeral services holding company adding that its subsidiary which he could not name is the one that deals with fertiliser supplies.

Churu and his colleagues from the Ministry of Finance admitted to Parliament that they breached the Public Funds Management Act knowingly by not subjecting FSG to tender processes as is required.

 

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Daniel Chigundu

Daniel Chigundu is a male journalist in Zimbabwe and has been practising since September 2009. He used to the editor for The Business Connect (newspaper) in Harare, has his own news website Tourism Focus which is biased towards the tourism sector. Daniel is also working with Magamba Network on their project called Open Parliament where they do live coverage of Parliamentary activities on Twitter and Facebook. He is currently the secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Parliamentary Journalists Forum, is a member of Zimbabwe Small Broadcasters Association and a board member of Digital Communication Network. He holds a Diploma in Communication and Journalism from the Christian College of Southern Africa (CCOSA), a certificate in Youth leadership training from the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), a certificate in Citizen Journalism from Magamba Network and is currently a first-year student at Zimbabwe Open University studying for a Bachelor of Arts Honours in Ethics and Organisational Leadership.

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