Command agriculture deal above board – Sakunda

By ZBC Reporter

SAKUNDA Holdings says the issuance of Treasury Bills under the Command Agriculture programme was legal as it was backed by a Special Cabinet Authority.

There has been an outcry from civic organisations that the command agriculture deal was done without going tender and therefore was a corrupt deal, but, Sakunda said a Special Cabinet Authority automatically supersedes the public tendering process in any national project.

Sakunda, in a statement, said the granting of Special Cabinet Authority for the advancement of key national projects is neither irregular nor illegal as shown by an analysis of such economic interventions in the recent past.

The statement was in response to a report – Legal Tender? The role of Sakunda and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) in Command Agriculture – by The Sentry, a United States-based investigative and policy organisation.

The report, released last week, claimed that Sakunda redeemed Treasury Bills (TBs) held under the US$1 billion Command Agriculture programme at a favourable exchange rate approved by the central bank, while 67% of funds of the facility were not recovered by 2018.

The Sentry, the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and Daily Maverick claimed they investigated the command agriculture programme but had varying figures they claimed were profits realised by Sakunda.

The latest report revised the profit to US$90 million from US$6 billion.

Sakunda said the differing profit projections only exposed the “lies” being peddled by the “anti-government proponents”.

At first, the research institutions and opposition legislator, Tendai Biti said an estimated US$6 billion was looted through the command agriculture, then US$3.6 billion and now the figure has fallen to US$1.2 billion, according to the Sentry latest report.

“The contracts were facilitated by the Special Cabinet Authority and thus were not subject to the public tendering process,” Sakunda said.

“The Government uses Special Cabinet Authority in exigent circumstances, such as guaranteeing food security through initiatives like Command Agriculture. Several companies have over the years been awarded contracts to undertake national projects via Special Cabinet Authority.”

Sakunda said anti-Zimbabwe politicians and Non-Governmental Organisations were desperate to tarnish the company’s name.

“At first, it was US$6 billion. Within a few months, it was down to US$$3 billion. A few weeks ago, the figure had declined to roughly US$1,2 billion. And now, we are told it is US$$90 million,” the company said.

“This is the amount of money that a group of anti-Zimbabwe politicians and NGO-funded ‘investigators’ have variably claimed to have been looted by Sakunda Holdings through its participation in the successful Command Agriculture Programme from 2016 to 2019.”

In recent months, civic organisations and opposition parties have been pressuring the US and United Kingdom to impose sanctions on Tagwirei and his companies over alleged corrupt activities involving government tenders.

“From an initial claim of US$6 billion, the figure has shrunk to the US$90 million alleged in The Sentry’s latest report published on March 17, 2022,” Sakunda added.

“So, why has the figure fallen by nearly US$5,9 billion from US$6 billion to below US$100 million? Is it – as posited by some observers – a realisation by the accusers that they cannot substantiate their billion-dollar claims?”

“Or, is the latest climb-down related to the March 3, 2022, report by the opposition-chaired Public Accounts Committee of the Parliament of Zimbabwe, which found that Sakunda fully accounted for its participation in the Special Maize Import Substitution Programme. So, perhaps the parliamentary report clearing Sakunda of any wrongdoing has prompted the latest climb-down, which brings the figure of allegedly looted money from US$6 billion to US$90 million.”

The Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC), in its latest report, said: “Total payments to Sakunda for 2017 was $378,739,319.75 and for 2018 it was $235,954,143.85.”

It pointed out that several other companies had also benefited from the Special Cabinet Authority to participate in improving agriculture.

“Total payments in 2017 and 2018 for Presidential Scheme is $573,392,887.33 (paid to FSG – $ 392,853,180.22; Quton – $19,753,638.00; Pedstock – $7,538,441.69; Cottco – $30,898,812.65; Sakunda $51,205,481.25; Sable Chemicals – $4,900,00; Seedco – $40,150,000.00; Valley Seeds – $8,700,000; Windmill – $17,800,000; and ZFC – $17,750,000.)”

However, the Sentry said the issuance of Treasury Bills to Sakunda as security for its participation in Command Agriculture was riddled with corruption.

However, the PAC said the government-issued TBs to at least ten companies, not only Sakunda, contracted for Command Agriculture and the Presidential Inputs Support Scheme.

The committee said the issuance of Treasury Bills to Sakunda was above board.