The Comptroller and Auditor-General is concerned that the government may fail to recover money from farmers it assisted with agricultural inputs sourced under a $200 million Chinese loan a couple of seasons ago.
Comptroller and Auditor General Mildred Chiri Chiri, according to a document detailing the state's latest audited accounts, said government has not taken any steps to recover the money, adding the farmers may never pay back.
In one instance, the Agriculture Ministry’s Irrigation Department issued out 107 transformers and 440 pumps to various farmers on a cost recovery basis.
Chiri said the value of the equipment had not been disclosed to farmers at the time of the audit and no efforts had been taken to recover the money as the amount was not established then. She said it was taking too long to bill the farmers.
Former chairman of Parliament’s Agriculture Portfolio Committee, Moses Jiri, whose committee tried to access without success the list of all beneficiaries and the amounts they owed, said everyone must pay back.
Jiri said the government cannot repay the $200 million loan on behalf of farmers who benefitted and are not contributing meaningfully to the fiscus.
Karoi farmer, Julius Chibaya, concured saying with government struggling to fund the agricultural sector at the moment, all those that have benefited from previous programs should pay back so that the state can assist more farmers.
Government has over the last 10 years provided inputs and equipment to farmers under various schemes but the new farmers have not paid back, not even a single cent.
Under agricultural schemes, farmers got equipment such as combine harvesters, tractors and other inputs without paying anything.
Efforts by the Seventh parliament to get a list of beneficiaries and the amounts they owe were fruitless as some of the officials who led the schemes like former Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono and Grain Marketing Board General Manager Albert Mandizha declined to provide the information saying they had given it to the Ministry of Agriculture.
Agriculture Minister Joseph Made could not be reached for comment.