TIMB chief faces graft probe
THE Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) has instituted investigations into reports that acting chief executive officer Emmanuel Matsvaire allegedly violated the institution’s tender procedures.
Chairman Patrick Devenish has confirmed that the tobacco industry regulator had received an anonymous report, which made claims related to alleged corrupt conduct involving the acting CEO, with the board now actively looking into the matter.
Mr Matsvaire, who was appointed acting chief executive following the arrest of CEO Meanwell Gudu in September last year, is accused of having violated tender procedures for personal gain, nepotism, abuse of farming inputs distributed under TIMB’s tobacco credit inputs scheme (TICS), among several other allegations.
Under the TICS scheme, the regulator disburses inputs to merchants to support smallholder farmers who fail to access the inputs from private commercial contractors.
In an interview with The Herald Finance & Business, Mr Devenish said the board was alive to the allegations and was acting on them. “I can confirm that we have received an anonymous report and the board is following up on it,” said Mr Devenish.
He said given the report had come from an anonymous source, the TIMB board would pursue all avenues to first ascertain the credibility of the report before taking action.
This comes after Mr Gudu appeared in court in September last year on allegations of abusing the tobacco inputs scheme, which was meant to benefit small-scale farmers.
Mr Gugu appeared at the Harare Magistrates Court jointly charged with former TIMB CEO Evaristo Matibiri and Stewart Shanyika, a former head of special projects on criminal abuse of duty charges.
The inputs relate to a US$86,8 million facility funded by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, which was aimed at supporting small-scale tobacco farmers with farming inputs and working capital in a bid to improve tobacco productivity, ensure viable production of Flue Cured Virginia Tobacco of export quality and to increase the size of national crop.
The trio was charged over alleged corrupt conduct in handling the disbursement of inputs to four tobacco contractors namely Big Leaf Tobacco, Central Leaf Tobacco and Bindura Tobacco.
To date, the contractors still owe TIMB about US$1,791 million from the 2020/2021 farming season.
Meanwhile, all is set for the 2023 marketing season expected to open today, with the country anticipating to produce 230 million kilogrammes from 212 million kg last year.
The auction floors will open today (Wednesday) while the contract floors will open tomorrow.
The official opening will be held at Tobacco Sales Floor.
However, the bulk of the crop would be sold outside Harare as many contract floors are now decentralized.
Also, with the bulk of tobacco now funded by contractors (about 96 percent), a very small amount of the crop would be sold through the auction system. This season, 85 percent of the proceeds will be paid in foreign currency while the remainder will be liquidated at the official exchange rate. Zimbabwe Farmers Union executive director Mr Paul Zakaria said the farmers were hoping to get fair value for their crop.
“We are expecting a bigger crop and of very good quality because the farmers have put a lot of effort; we expect the off takers to give farmers a fair value for their sweat.
“We also export farmers to be paid on time and in full. As we speak right now, we have farmers who are yet to receive their money from last season and we don’t expect that to happen.”
Recently, Mr George Seremwe, president of the Zimbabwe Tobacco Growers Association (ZTGA) said that this year’s tobacco output was expected to be better both in volume and quality terms due to the good rains that the country received this cropping season. He said the quality of the tobacco crop was good and would fetch top prices.
“This year, we have got a very good crop. The rains were good, even the dry land crop which is rain fed could be looking like the irrigated crop because the rains were quite good.
“We are expecting a very good quality crop. We are only concerned that the inputs were quite expensive, so the prices we are going to fetch from the market should reflect that,” he said.