Government owes the Grain Marketing Board US$42 million, leaving it compromised to discharge its duties effectively, parliamentarians heard yesterday.
Appearing before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Lands, Agriculture Mechanisation and Irrigation yesterday, permanent secretary in the of Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Mr Ringson Chitsiko said officials from GMB implored Treasury to settle the debt.
Mbire MP Cde David Butau (Zanu-PF) chairs the committee.
GMB general manager Mr Albert Mandizha said they, together with the Government, conducted a reconciliation report that revealed that the major shareholder owed the parastatal.
"The Government owes the Grain Marketing Board as of last week US$42 million. We are not asking for assistance, it's our money that we are owed.
"We are not asking for assistance or charity. We are owed that money and it's on record. A reconciliation is in place to prove that point. So we need assistance from Treasury," said Mr Mandizha.
He said the parastatal owed its lower level employees two months salary while top management had not been paid in three months.
Mr Chitsiko said: "Yes, there is a dividing line as instructed by the shareholder to say GMB your commercial operations are totally separate entities to the social operations which are our strategic grain reserves and all that goes with it."
But Mr Mandizha said it was prudent for GMB to combine commercial and social activities since Treasury was not disbursing money for the latter.
Mr Mandizha said the parastatal had collected about US$15 million from its commercial activities that it forwarded to Treasury in the past five years.
Mr Chitsiko said GMB was in the process of paying farmers who delivered their grain over the past two seasons.
He said they would clear the debt by the end of this month.
Mr Mandizha said the debt had come down from about US$6,5 million to about US$1 million.
He said Government also owed transporters who ferried grain during the grain loan scheme.
"They are owed US$8, 6 million. And that is supposed to be paid by Treasury. It means that at the moment indigenous transporters who carried the grains during that time, some of them are having their properties attached. And we need them in the coming season. That's an area we hope will be tackled. It's a challenge for us because it was a social activity which is supposed to be paid by Government," he said.
Mr Chitsiko said there was need for Treasury to approve a US$7,5 million facility that would see the parastatal repair its silos across the country to improve their holding capacity.
He said Cabinet had the sole mandate of approving the grain producer price adding that merchants who were buying grains from farmers for prices that were below the floor price were committing a crime. As such, he said, they should be arrested if reported.
Meanwhile, Cde Butau barred Mr Chitsiko from disclosing the salary structure at GMB.
However, last week the same committee rapped Mr Chitsiko for professing ignorance of the salaries management at GMB were paid, irking parliamentarians.