Chinamasa in nepotism storm

FINANCE minister Patrick Chinamasa finds himself in a nepotism storm after he was accused of abusing his office to divert reforestation funds from the Forestry Commission to the Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (TIMB), which is chaired by his wife, Monica.

BY VENERANDA LANGA

Chinamasa

Forestry Commission acting general manager, Abednico Marufu made the disclosure when he appeared in Parliament yesterday, where he accused Chinamasa of moving the Afforestation Fund to TIMB without consulting his commission and in contravention of a Cabinet resolution.

Marufu told the Wonder Mashange-led Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environment that they were robbed of their right to administer the Afforestation Fund after Cabinet had given them custody of the fund to bankroll reforestation programmes.

“The fund is targeted at producing seedlings to replenish forests that would have been destroyed by tobacco farmers in curing their crop,” he said.

“Farmers are levied one and a half cents per dollar earned to fund reforestation programmes.

“In 2015, the Minister of Finance announced that there was going to be an afforestation levy and we were told to open a bank account, which was specifically for the Afforestation Fund and to prepare a constitution on how it is going to be utilised, but we were surprised that the Cabinet decision to give the Forestry Commission custody of the fund was later changed and given to TIMB.

“This decision was made by the Minister of Finance, and we never saw any document from Cabinet rescinding that decision for us to administer the fund.

“We read about it in the Press and when we approached the ministry, they told us that the fund is now going to be administered by TIMB.”

The situation, Marufu said, had financially crippled the Forestry Commission’s operations, as it does generate much revenue from its activities.

Addressing the same committee, TIMB chief executive officer, Andrew Matibiri told the committee that Chinamasa announced the move the Afforestation Fund to TIMB in his 2017 national budget statement.

“We are not in conflict. We were given the mandate to run the fund and on that regard, TIMB established a committee chaired by Jane Gonese and a technical committee chaired by Minuel Gudu to run the fund,” he said.

Matibiri, however, failed to produce the statutory instrument allowing TIMB to run the Afforestation Fund, as well as its terms of reference.

It also turned out that the fund’s constitution had not yet been approved by Parliament.

Matibiri claimed they were given the mandate to run the fund by the tobacco farmers, adding their mandate to administer the fund is derived from the Tobacco Marketing Levy Act.

“In 2015 to 2016, an amount of $14,2 million was collected by Zimra (Zimbabwe Revenue Authority) for the Afforestation Fund, and, this year, 2017 up to May, an amount of $7,9 million has been disbursed to TIMB, but we have not yet used a single cent from the fund,” he said.

The committee ordered TIMB to stop using the fund until the wrangle over its administration has been resolved.