Mystery surrounding the command agriculture program initiated by government in 2016 continue to unfold amid revelations that Sakunda holdings was awarded a US$3 Billion contract without going through parliament as stipulated by law while terms of agreement of the deal remain clouded in secrecy to this day.
Giving oral evidence before the Parliamentary Committee on Public Accounts yesterday Accountant General, Daniel Muchemwa confirmed that Command Agriculture was done impetuously with orders coming from the Ministry of Finance’s Borrowing Unit to issues payments to Sakunda.
“Command Agriculture came into being before…, we didn’t sit down to talk about the process that we will follow to achieve under Command Agriculture. We actually had to prepare procedures manuals after command agriculture was in existence. And the Ministry of Agriculture has developed a set of accounting procedures manuals that we are reviewing to ensure that the controls are perfect,” said an uneasy Muchemwa whom upon cornered by the portfolio chair, Tendai Biti, to confirm whether the program was carried out without due procedure he said,” I confirm.”
Command agriculture was meant to prop up the country’s grain production accruing over US$3 billion to date since 2016 when the program was introduced.
The program has not lived up to its billing as the country is still in dire need of grain supplements to meet demand.
According to the Auditor General’s report, treasury entered into contracts for financing of the 2018 winter wheat season without the approval of parliament as per law.
The report indicates the program was funded by Treasury Bills and there are payments that have been made so far to the contracted lenders.
Quizzed by Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee, Tendai Biti on the terms and names of lenders of the Command Agriculture, Muchemwa professed ignorance to the terms of conditions though he identified Sakunda as the lender.
“I paid Sakunda on the basis of instructions that came from the Borrowing Unit. There is some agreement between our Borrowing Unit and Sakunda. That is the basis for the payment that we made,” said Muchemwa.
However the representative from the Borrowing Unit was unable to give the terms raising further questions on the circumstances Sakunda was contracted.
In January this year Treasury paid US$ 360 million to Sakunda, on top of an earlier advance payment of US$ 182.5 million yet there is nothing to show in terms of agricultural output.
There are a growing number of voices calling for a probe into the handling of Command Agriculture funds with analysts describing it as a positive idea that has not managed to get buy in it deserves from the corporate world due to its strong links with top military officials.