Conrad Mwanawashe Business Reporter
The Grain Marketing Board failed to maintain the stipulated strategic grain levels of 500 000 metric tonnes and cash reserves sufficient to import 436 000 metric tonnes at any given time, the Auditor-General has revealed.
This means that the country has no adequate fall back plan for grain in the event of a drought or other natural disasters.
In her report covering the period April 1 2009 to March 31 2012 presented to Parliament, the Auditor-General Ms Margaret Chiri said in the grain marketing seasons 2009-2010, 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 the physical stocks fell short of the minimum required by 91,93 percent at 459 649, 55,57 percent at 277 831 and 40,28 percent at 201 386 metric tonnes respectively.
Of the quantities received during the three intakes, the board had downgraded maize totalling 61 396 metric tonnes with a replacement cost of $118 111 820 due to poor storage facilities, poor quality tarpaulins and delays in fumigation.
“The write-offs represent 17 percent of the five provinces’ total collections for the three intakes. My inquiry with the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe revealed that these quantities could have fed 1 534 900 households of six people each for a period of one month,” said Ms Chiri.
She said the GMB was unable to timeously pay for delivered maize as it was taking between 25 to 300 days to pay farmers. Late payment of maize delivered by farmers to GMB resulted in farmers selling to private buyers who lure them because of their prompt payment.
“This resulted in low levels of maize in the Strategic Grain Reserve,” she said.
GMB realised revenue amounting to $22 076 828 from maize sales and maize products over the period April 1 2009 to march 31 2012.
The late payment of farmers was caused by funds not being ploughed back in the management of Strategic Grain Reserve to pay off farmers, she said.
Apart from failure to maintain required grain levels, GMB also failed to set management and control of maize stocks at depots.
“Management and control of maize stocks at most depots visited left a lot to be desired. Laid down procedures were not being followed in the management of the Strategic Grain Reserves.
“As a result, weevils wreaking havoc at depots, generally poor hygiene, poor stacked maize, bursting of maize bags shortage of tarpaulins, caking and rotting maize in silos were noted at depots visited,” Ms Chiri said.
“There was lack of maintenance of storage facilities at most of the depots visited resulting in downgraded maize amounting to 52 815 metric tonnes mainly due to bin burn and caking in the silos, and three metric tonnes due to leaking roofs on shed storage.
The silos were long overdue for refurbishment as some were now over 58 years old,” the Government’s chief auditor said.
GMB’s facilities were no longer suitable to store maize as expected as most of them had developed multiple cracks which allow water to seep through, causing bin burn and caking.
“For example Lions Den depot had 24 silo bins with multiple cracks out of a total of 29 and at Karoi depot all 14 silo bins have multiple cracks as well. In the end the quantity of maize for the Strategic Grain Reserve was affected by bin burn and stack burn,” she noted.
In response to the Auditor-General’s findings, the GMB board attributed the problems to inadequate funding from Treasury during the period under review. As at March 2012, Government owed GMB $7 832 869 for deliveries done from 2010/ 2011 farming period.
“For other materials required for proper grain handling such as bags, tarpaulins, poles, GMB requested for a total of $9 668 000 and only received $4 800 000,” she said.