EDITORAL COMMENT: Government must put in place mechanism to counter cheating by millers

The Chronicle

Government announced on Friday that it has started rolling out its subsidy programme to all licensed grain millers as it moves to stabilise mealie-meal prices. President Mnangagwa had to intervene and reverse an earlier Government decision to remove the subsidy. 

When Government removed the subsidy the milling industry responded by doubling the prices of mealie-meal which is now beyond the reach of many as a 10kg bag of mealie-meal is selling for $100 or more.

Government announced that it is paying the subsidy for this month in advance so that consumers can start enjoying the benefit. It however said starting next month, the subsidy money will be paid post-verification of monthly production of roller meal. 

It said the operational modalities of the subsidy programme will be constantly reviewed in consultation with all relevant stakeholders to ensure transparency, accountability, efficiency and effectiveness. 

Grain millers will buy maize from the GMB at a price of ZWL$4 000 per tonne and all licensed millers including non-members of Grain Millers’ Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) will be allowed to participate in the roller meal subsidy progamme.

The price of roller meal is expected to drop to $50 for a 10kg bag once millers start benefiting from the subsidy. Payment for the subsidy will be based on verified production of roller meal by the millers and the verification will be done by a team of officials from the ministries of Finance and Industry and Commerce as well as officials from the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority. 

When Government removed the subsidy, the argument was that it was not benefiting the consumers but millers. There were reports of millers buying the maize from GMB at subsidised prices and selling it in foreign currency in places such as Plumtree and Beitbridge. 

It is our fervent hope that this time around Government has put in place measures to plug such loopholes so that consumers benefit from the roller meal subsidy. 

There should be a mechanism to counter cheating by millers who might benefit from the subsidy and continue charging exorbitant prices for the mealie-meal. 

Some of the millers are the ones supplying the informal sector with mealie-meal which is then sold for cash only thereby denying those with plastic money access to this basic commodity. 

The new subsidy system whereby Government pays subsidy money directly into millers’ bank accounts can be abused if no proper accounting system is put in place. 

We fear a situation whereby millers are paid subsidy money based on inflated production figures. 

The accounting system should therefore be very tight if we are to guard against such unscrupulous businesspeople that may want to profiteer at the expense of consumers. 

Defiant and unrepentant businesspeople should not benefit from the roller meal subsidy.