GRAIN Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) chairman Mr Tafadzwa Musarara yesterday failed to account for US$27 million which the association received from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) to import wheat and could not provide evidence that the association used part of the money to repair Grain Marketing Board (GMB) silos.
This came out when Mr Musarara presented oral evidence before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement chaired by Cde Justice Mayor Wadyajena.
Asked to explain how his association used the money, Mr Musarara told the committee that the association did not get US$27 million, but US$26.1 million.
Mr Musarara said GMAZ gave GMB US$9 million for the maintenance of GMB silos. He said they submitted the information to Parliament last year.
The money, he said was deposited in MetBank Account number 010733244. Under the deal, he said GMAZ agreed with the Ministry of Finance not to charge interest.
For repayment, Mr Musarara told Parliament that, the Government would sell maize to his association at a subsidised price of US$240 per tonne, not the US$270 per tonne which was prevailing on the market.
He said GMAZ engaged Baker Tilly auditors who wrote to the GMB about the funds. But GMB finance director Mr Clemence Guta dismissed Mr Musarara’s claim.
The GMB official denied that the board received anything from GMAZ and said money for silos came from other sources, though some may have been members of GMAZ, but not GMAZ as a whole.
He said GMAZ was buying grain at US$240 per tonne not because of the silos, but that they had negotiated a favourable price.
Mr Guta said if the money GMB got from GMAZ was a loan, they would have gotten it at once, but the money came bit-by-bit. Mr Musarara responded to the GMB by handing out a letter which he said was from GMB to Cde Wadyajena, who however, queried its authenticity because it was not signed.
Asked why the letter was not signed, Mr Musarara said he did not know since it came through auditors.
Quizzed why the loan to GMB was paid out bit-by-bit, the GMAZ boss referred the committee to MetBank because it handled the transaction allegedly with the blessing of the Ministry of Finance. As far as he was concerned, he said the money was paid once and the bank was in a position to explain.
Cde Wadyajena then called a former GMAZ member, Mr Davies Muhambi, to testify.
Mr Muhambi accused GMAZ of being a hoax. He said he was part of GMAZ, but Mr Musarara sidelined him on all GMB deals.
However, another miller, Mr Chirimuuta of Purity Trading, said he knew about the GMB deal and benefited from GMAZ. Cde Wadyajena questioned a previous Press statement issued by the GMAZ public relations officer which claimed that the association never received money from GMB when Mr Musarara had confirmed to having received US$26,1 million.
Musarara said the money was not deposited directly into the GMAZ account, but to individual millers under the GMAZ basket.
Cde Wadyajena said according to documents, GMAZ did not import a single grain, yet it got US$27 million.
At the centre of the dispute were bills of entry produced by Mr Musarara as evidence that the milling body imported wheat into the country.
Cde Wadyajena said the bills of entry were of a private company and not GMAZ which negotiated the funding facility from the central bank.
“We have gathered evidence from Zimra which showed that GMAZ never imported even a single grain of wheat,” said Cde Wadyajena.
In response, Mr Musarara complained that Cde Wadyajena was not giving him time to explain the process they used to import the wheat.
He said some of the evidence that the committee requested was with Manica Freight Agents whom they engaged to facilitate the importation.
“Mr chair (Cde Wadyajena) you are deliberately not giving me the chance to reply,” said Mr Musarara.
Small millers that also appeared before the committee yesterday said despite being GMAZ members, they did not benefit from the facility and were not aware of it. This came after it emerged that only two players in the milling industry — National Foods Limited and Parrogate benefitted from the US$27, 6 million.
However, Mr Musarara said only those who were liquid at the time participated in the scheme.