Abigail Mawonde Herald Correspondent
THE Grain Marketing Board and the District Development Fund have been accused of diverting funds allocated to them by Government for the distribution of food aid to the needy as they used the money to repair their vehicles, pay allowances and settle debts. Government is furious over the misuse of the funds believed to be over $500 000.
It has since ordered the GMB and DDF to account for the funds.
This was revealed by Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Prisca Mupfumira yesterday while addressing delegates attending a workshop on Strengthening of Capacity of Provincial Drought Relief Commit- tees
“I want to express some disappointment with both GMB and the DDF. After we gave them money for drought relief $400 000 (GMB), and after giving DDF $100 000 for fuel, they diverted the funds to repairs and maintenance of their cars while GMB used the money for other things outside the intended purpose because we expect remittances to come and show us how the money was used,” said Minister Mupfumira.
“The money was not being used for the purpose intended. So please, be warned that if money has been allocated for drought relief or for sacks, that $400 000 will not be meant for you to pay off your allowances, back-pay or other things like repairing cars. No, that should be coming from your funds not from those allocations.”
Minister Mupfumira said money released for drought relief was not meant for servicing vehicles but to deliver food to those in need.
“If money is allocated for drought relief, DDF, you should know that it is money for fuel, not for serving your cars because if you are to service the cars, what it means is we will no longer have money for the intended purpose. So you need to use your own funds DDF so that the money will serve its intended purpose.
“As for GMB, you have to buy sacks and distribute grain otherwise if you start attending to your expenses, then we are not focusing on the food mitigation programme,” said Minister Mupfumira.
She said there were a number of anomalies in the distribution of food aid.
“In Mashonaland West Province, Government officers have been arrested for diverting maize grain from being delivered to expectant households gathered at the ward distribution centre to Harare to be sold for profit. We are grateful to the Zimbabwe Republic Police who have since arrested the perpetrators and brought them before the courts.”
Minister Mupfumira said there was also a tendency by transporters to overcharge beneficiaries when they moved grain from GMB depots to distribution points.
“Due to shortage of transport, beneficiaries in a number of provinces were being overcharged by transporters to ferry their grain from GMB depots to distribution points. For example, in Mashonaland Central the charge ranged from $1 to $5 (per bag).
In Manicaland the charge was from $1 to $3,50 per bag. If, for example, a 30-tonne truck was used, which carries 600 bags net weight at $5 per bag, the transporter would pocket $3 000 for a single trip from the GMB depot to the distribution point, which is totally unacceptable. It is our duty to guard against such malpractices,” she said.
Minister Mupfumira also warned against politicisation of food aid.
“We have also received reports of grain being distributed along political lines. This is quite disturbing since it is not Government’s policy to distribute grain on political lines,” she said.
“Hunger does not discriminate along party lines, therefore such practices are unlawful. Perpetrators must stop forthwith or face the full force of the law,” she said.
“There are also reports of areas where some councillors are conducting their own grain redistribution and sharing of the maize grain after the official distribution has been done. In these instances, households are being made to share their grain with the councillors or with other villagers not on the official registers.”
Minister Mupfumira said such reports were received from the Midlands and Manicaland provinces.
She urged Provincial Drought Relief Committees and District Drought Relief Committees to own the programme so as to ease the bottlenecks faced in the distribution of food aid.
“The responsibilities of implementing the programme fall on all the members of the committees, the majority whom are Government officials. Therefore, the programme must be taken as national duty not to be left to Social Services alone,” she said.
Minister Mupfumira said failure to redistribute maize grain within a province from depots with surplus, to depots with a deficit was also a problem. She challenged the PDRC to work efficiently in ensuring that grain is moved from depots with surplus to depots of deficit.
Minister Mupfumira said 84 196,24 metric tonnes of maize grain had been distributed to vulnerable households across the country to date. She said after the recent completion of the registration and verification exercise, it was realised that there were 626 206 vulnerable households that require 31 310,3 metric tonnes of grain per month.
Minister Mupfumira said the GMB must ensure that adequate stocks of grain were maintained at various depots in case of demand. Treasury released $1 million to buy grain after Government declared the food situation a State of Disaster following poor rains.