Zvamaida Murwira Herald Reporter
Government agencies should adhere to their mandate as envisaged by the enabling Act that created them and guiding polices and desist from straying into other areas, a Cabinet Minister has said.
Higher and Tertiary Education. Science and Technology Development Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo, said he had noted during his previous interactions with state entities falling under his Ministry that some of them had deviated from their core mandate and that was a cause for concern.
He said this while meeting board members and senior management of the National Biotechnology Authority as part of several interactive meetings he has been holding with institutions falling under his Ministry that include universities, polytechnic colleges among others.
NBA and the Zimbabwe National Council for Higher Education were the remaining two institutions he met yesterday.
“The issue of mandate is a very important one for us. This is the last interaction with institutions that have specific work, so to speak. The issue of mandate has been central in all the other interactions we have had and almost without exception, our experience has been that for a number of reasons including some excuses, institutions have deviated from their mandate,” said Prof Moyo.
He said some institutions had included certain functions or left other activities despite the fact that they were contained in the enabling Act.
During deliberations, Prof Moyo observed that NBA appeared to have deviated from its mandate.
This was after NBA chief executive, Dr Jonathan Mufandaedza, who had during a presentation about an overview of the organisation’s activities, indicated that they needed a farm and a laboratory to carry out research work.
Prof Moyo, who was accompanied by his deputy, Dr Godfrey Gandawa and Permanent Secretary Dr Machivenyika Mapuranga, asked if NBA’s role was not primarily regulatory as opposed to research work.
Dr Mufandaedza had also expressed concern on what, in his view, appeared to be conflict on their role on Genetically Modified Organisms with that of the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development which he said did not allow research on GMOs.
Dr Mufandaedza said it was not enticing to carry out a research on GMOs knowing that it would not be commercialised.
“How does this issue express your mandate? It raises a question of mandate. Is your mandate in this issue a regulatory one or a research one? And, this for me is very fundamental because as you address this issue, you end up conflating these two things, And from a Government point of view it is a challenge, because you are the watchdog, you are the arm that must or should regulate on behalf of the State, but you speak in double tongues; you speak as if you are conflicted,” said Prof Moyo.
Prof Moyo said he expected researchers from some entities to raise such concerns of obstacles in their work, something that would eventually be addressed by improving the regulatory framework.
“But if the regulator is the one saying I want to either do this or that GMO research, or to promote it, it raises from our point of view, from a policy point of view, it raises quite a serious mandate issue. You cannot be complaining when you are the most important instrument of Government to clarify the issue. You cannot be saying we don’t understand what position of Government it is and it is compounded by the Ministry of Agriculture,” said Prof Moyo.
Minister Moyo said his ministry would be convening a meeting this Thursday to consolidate what they had gathered from the various interactions they have had.
He described NBA as an important Government institution to push Government’s agenda.
“Please note, we consider NBA a major national institution with a very clear strategic mandate. It’s very important. The reason we could not come earlier had nothing to do with what we make of that mandate, it simply was a diary issue,” he said.