16 September 2017

Mozambique: FDA Fraud - Fictitious Projects Draining Milllions

Photo: lejecos
(File photo).

Maputo — Joaquim Mazive, one of the 24 accused in the case of the fraud that syphoned 170 million meticais (about 2.9 million US dollars, at current exchange rates) from the Mozambican government's Agricultural Development Fund (FDA), on Friday denied that he had issued favourable opinions for fake livestock projects.

The prosecution alleges that Mazive was one of the FDA staff who, between 2012 and 2015, gave favourable technical opinions to projects approved by the then chairperson of the FDA, Setina Titosse, regarded as the mastermind behind the fraud.

The prosecution says that none of the projects approved met the minimum requirements laid down by the FDA. These included, for example, proof that the project had access to the land required. This could either be a land title (known as a DUAT), or a declaration from the District Economic Activities Services (SDAE), covering the area where the project was to be set up.

The applicant is also required to submit, among other documents, a business plan, proof of payment of taxes, and invoices or quotations for the goods he intends to purchase. None of the projects that formed part of the fraud met these requirements.

One of the projects for which Mazive wrote a favourable opinion was submitted by Gerson Manganhe, supposedly to raise cattle in Chibuto district, in the southern province of Gaza. Manganhe received just short of six million meticais for this.

But the investigation by the Central Office for the Fight against Corruption (GCCC) showed that this project simply did not exist. Manganhe knew nothing about Chibuto, and had never set foot in the district. He had no livestock project, said the prosecution, "and so the role of Joaquim Mazive was to give the go-ahead to something he knew did not exist".

Likewise Mazive gave a favourable opinion to a project of Vicente Matine, despite his lack of a DUAT, or a letter from the SDAE, showing that he had land for his project. Nonetheless, 4.6 million meticais was deposited in his account. Two days later, 2.5 million meticais of this sum was transferred to the account of Milda Cossa, the personal assistant to Setina Titosse. The money eventually ended up in Titosse's hands, the prosecution says.

This left 2.1 million meticais for Matine who, used it, not for any livestock project but to buy a Toyota vehicle.

In all Mazive wrote favourable opinions for nine projects, regarded by the prosecution as fictitious. But he told the Maputo City Court on Friday that when he received the projects, he analysed them and visited the places where they were to be set up. Despite the lack of documents, he claimed the projects did meet the FDA requirements. This contradicted statements by the FDA beneficiaries themselves who, during the preliminary investigations, admitted they knew nothing about the districts where they were supposedly investing the FDA funds.

Thus Mazive said that he had accompanied Gerson Manganhe to the site of his project in Chibuto. But Manganhe gave evidence to the court the previous day that he had never gone to Chibuto.

When the judge pointed out these contradictions, Mazive admitted he might have been mistaken, and might have accompanied the project proponents to other places.

He admitted that he had received three million meticais for a project of his own. He wrote the technical opinion for his own project. (Even if this project was real, it would still be illegal under the Law on Public Probity. Public officials cannot help themselves to the funds of the institutions they work for, and approving their own projects is an obvious conflict of interests).

Mazive said his project was for raising cattle in Boane district, in Maputo province, but due to climatic conditions, he moved the animals to Moamba district. He said the first repayment of the money did not fall due until 2018, and he would pay the FDA loan off at the rate of 300,000 meticais every six months.

Brasilino Salvador, the former head of the FDA livestock department, denied that he had drawn up fake projects, but admitted to the court that some 90 per cent of projects approved by the FDA, including his own, were irregular.

He said that projects were financed, even without meeting the FDA requirements, in order to allow people to "develop their initiatives".

He admitted taking over 3.9 million meticais to raise cattle in Boane. Like Mazive, he then transferred the cattle to Moamba. He also acquired a vehicle from the FDA, costing over 600,000 meticais.

Also on Friday, another accused Felicidade Massangueja, told the court she had received over four million meticais for a cattle project. But on Titosse's instructions, she transferred two million meticais to the account of Milda Cossa, and 500,000 to the account of her husband, Paulo Manhique. She put a further 800,000 in a deposit account, but intended to use it later in her cattle business.

"In fact, I don't know whether I still have any cattle", she admitted. "I stepped aside from the business a bit when I became pregnant and was then arrested under this case. I never tried to find out again what had happened to my cattle".

FDA worker Atalia Matuca told the court she had received a loan of over three million meticais from Titosse which she used, not for any agricultural or livestock purposes, but to buy a house in the southern city of Matola.

Abdul Rassur, who is married to a niece of Titosse, said he had submitted a project to the FDA, but he had not drafted it. He never went to the FDA to deal with any aspect of the project, and signed all the paperwork in Titosse's house.

He received 6.1 million meticais from the FDA, but transferred most of it to accounts belonging to Titosse, to her ex-husband Cardoso Cabral, and to her niece, Isabel Antonio. He was left with 400,000 meticais for himself.

"I never went to the FDA", he said. "They just brought me the contract to sign. I didn't read the contract".

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