The Sunday News
Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Business Reporter
THE Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) has cornered officials at the Grain Marketing Board and discovered that some employees were allegedly channelling as much as 10 000, 20kg bags Government subsided Silo mealie-meal to the black market.
Last week an investigation into operations at Silo Industries in Bulawayo by a maize taskforce led by Industry and Commerce Deputy Minister Raj Modi allegedly discovered massive irregularities at the parastatal, resulting in the team reporting the matter to the anti-corruption body.
Zacc spokesman Commissioner John Makamure told Sunday News yesterday that a crack team was dispatched to Bulawayo and was recording statements from management and other stakeholders before possible arrests. Preliminary investigations by the maize taskforce following their surprise visit at Silo Industries’ factory, which is owned by GMB, at the Belmont industrial area indicated that some employees were allegedly diverting the subsidised roller meal meant for retailers to the black market.
The taskforce also allegedly discovered an invoice book that was being used by the perpetrators of the scam.
“We are currently carrying out investigations and we have put in place a crack team to investigate that issue. It’s a matter that is receiving our utmost attention. They are recording statements from various witnesses and after investigations we will then arrest the culprits and upon finalising our document, we will submit it to the National Prosecuting Authority to prosecute,” said Comm Makamure.
His statement was corroborated by Zacc chair Justice Loice Matanda-Moyo who told our Harare Bureau that some of the parastatal’s employees were in some instances allocating themselves in excess of 10 000, 20kg bags of Silo roller meal, which they would subsequently offload to the informal market.
“We have opened an investigation because there are some people at the GMB, including managers, who are responsible for fuelling the black market,” she said.
As a counter-measure, Zacc now plans to establish integrity committees for parastatals to both ensure compliance and plug loopholes. The committees will monitor “problem companies”.
“In 2020, the plan is to stop corruption rather than chasing it. This can be done through building strong institutions,” said Justice Matanda-Moyo.
However, Silo Industries managing director Mr Daniel Maregedze told Sunday News that he was not aware of the investigations.
“I’m the CEO and I am not aware of that so I don’t know where they are getting their information from so let them substantiate their claims, not us,” he said.
Silo Foods Industries started operations in April last year after the Government unbundled GMB into two entities — Strategic Grain Reserve and Silo Foods Industries as part of its public enterprise reform programme and the company markets its roller meal under the Silo brand. Maize and mealie-meal is Zimbabwe’s staple food making it a strategic commodity to the country’s economy. However, the country has since late last year been facing an adverse shortage of maize after three years of drought. Zimbabwe’s annual maize consumption stands at 1,8 million tonnes and Government is making concerted efforts to cover the deficit through imports.
Consumers have been battling to access roller meal, which is presently being subsidised by Government. On the black market, roller meal is selling for between $65 and $70 for a 10kg bag. Its gazetted price in retail shops is $50 for a 10kg bag. Government recently established a taskforce chaired by Deputy Minister Raj Modi to address mealie-meal shortages. Some of the taskforce members are drawn from the Zimbabwe Republic Police, Standards Association of Zimbabwe, Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Grain Marketing Board, Confederation of Retailers’ Association and the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority.