The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Lands and Agriculture today resolved to issue summons against the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) after it failed to turn up for a scheduled appearance before the committee.
GMAZ had been summoned to Parliament to answer questions surrounding the use of US$27 million allocated to the association by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe for wheat imports.
The committee was also seeking clarity on a $9 million facility allegedly extended to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) by GMAZ for the repair of silos which the GMB has denied receiving.
GMAZ has insisted that the GMB received the $9 million in 2017 under an agreement that the GMB would offset the debt through grain.
Committee chairperson Justice Wadyajena said after the snub by GMAZ, the committee would proceed by way of summons.
“They have to appear before the committee, we resolved that we have to summon them so we are issuing summons for them to appear,” he said.
“They have engaged lawyers, they wrote to Parliament through Wintertons saying they cannot appear before this committee. They think this committee is being unfair to them and they prefer to go before the Public Accounts committee so they have engaged their lawyers to fight us.”
Wadyajena said the committee investigation was not a witch hunt but part of its oversight role.
“We need information, they got money from the government, they got 27 million US dollars, we want to know how they used the money. They got money between 2017 and 2019, they should have bought wheat or they bought wheat that is what we want to find out so we just want them to come and explain to the committee what they used the money for,” he said.
“There are two issues, there is the issue of the $27 million allocated by the RBZ and then there is the issue of the rehabilitation of silos as well, because the GMB is refuting that GMAZ rehabilitated the silos but GMAZ is saying they rehabilitated the silos.”
The GMAZ, according to the letter from their lawyers said it was against Wadyajena rather than the committee per se and asked for Wadyajena’s recusal arguing, if the committee wanted to her evidence from the association.
“…Our client now genuinely entertains a reasonable suspicion that it will not be afforded a fair inquiry as the chairman is clearly conducting himself recklessly, unprofessionally and in a manner which casts aspersions on his impartiality and throws questions on his integrity and the ability to properly chair the meeting in a non-partisan manner,” the letter said.
“Our client hereby reserves its rights and hereby gives notice of its intention to apply through its legal practitioners, for the recusal of Mr Justice Mayor Wadyajena from the chairmanship or membership of the committee, if the committee is still interested in holding a meeting with our client,” the lawyers said.-New Ziana/Own