The awarding of duty free fuel importation to non-state actors by the Central Mechanical and Engineering Department (CMED) was replete with irregularities and tantamount to an illegality, the Parliamentary Committee on Energy and Mines has said.
By Byron Mutingwende
Speaking in the Senate Chamber on Monday 5 June 2017, committee chairperson, Daniel Shumba said Statutory Instrument (SI) 184 of 2014 which provides for duty free importation of fuel by CMED but the extension of the function to the Dema Electricity Project, the Kariba South Extension, and the Africa Chrome Field Projects was illegal since the instrument talked only about equipment and infrastructure that was of national interest.
“This process of allowing private players to import fuel duty free should be legally provided for. The Minister of Transport should guard against the furthering of such an illegality because this behaviour is against the provisions of the statutory instrument,” Shumba said.
In his defence, Transport Minister, Joram Gumbo said that in issuing the certificates, letters received from Treasury justified the licensing of the projects but Shumba shot down the suggestion.
“Letters are not law and have no effect of legalizing the process. Our introspection is meant to enrich the legal process and enforce proper legal instruction,” Shumba said.
There is an outcry from other sections of society regarding the way tenders were awarded to the said companies whose leadership is associated with having close connections with the Executive.
Zvishavane legislator, John Holder said there are other equally important national projects, which were surprisingly not allowed to import fuel on duty free basis.
Gumbo said the Minister of Finance on 12 April 2017 appealed to the Transport Ministry to issue the duty free certificates since the Kariba South and Dema Projects were of national interest.
“Specifically by implementing this decision, government has already boosted chrome output by 320% from February 2016 to February 2017. There may be legal gaps with respect to the Statutory Instrument in question so I have requested Treasury in liaison with the Attorney General’s Office to close such gaps,” Gumbo said.
Parliamentarians expressed their misgivings on the fact that there was no mechanism to ensure that the requested fuel was used for the specific reason it was intended for in the application. That created loopholes for abuse since once allocated, the companies would easily divert it for other uses due to the absence of an acquittal process for monitoring by the CMED.
Gumbo was also taken to task for re-hiring Davison Mhaka, the Chief Executive Officer of CMED despite recommendations of his dismissal by the Board which had cited his incapacity to revitalize the institution due to incompetence.