|PARLIAMENT has instructed the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) to investigate the debt it owed the listed hotel and retail giant Meikles Limited amid fears of fraud and inflation of figures.
Legislators also want the central bank to investigate various other amounts said to be owed by the central bank before Parliament can approve a proposal for government to take over the RBZ’s US$1,3 billion debt.
Finance minister, Patrick Chinamasa and central bank chief, John Mangudya were told by Zanu PF MP, Munyaradzi Kereke, that the money which is listed in the books of the central bank as a debt to Meikles could have been fraudulently arrived at to defraud the state.
Kereke worked at the central bank before leaving in acrimonious circumstances after falling out with then governor Gideon Gono.
Debating the RBZ debts assumption bill in the Budget and Finance committee, Kereke said as far as central bank books show, the state is obliged to pay Meikles $34.1 million and not the $90 million being demanded by the hotel and retail group which also has interest in mining, agriculture and others sectors of the economy.
“There is an item honourable minister where I want to make the following observation, that there is a possibility of fraud in respect of Meikles debt,” Kereke said.
“I use that language because, Meikles has gone officially on the stock exchange and submitted reports that are public because its publicly listed suggesting that it is going to receive and in fact, it has received over $50 million already, $90 million from the RBZ. Honourable minister, this is an incorrect figure,” he said.
The MP was part of the central bank staff when the debt was incurred and said he is privy to audited books of accounts of the apex bank.
“Meikles Africa deposited $25 million and it’s correctly captured by the treasury, the schedule recognises that this amount has grown to $40 million,” said Kereke.
“We want perhaps the governor, to explain to the committee what the correct figure is in relation to the Meikles debt.
“From the audited books of accounts for the central bank, the Meikles money is $34.1 million and I am very correct on that figure,” he said.
The MP told Chinamasa that unless the schedule showing RBZ creditors is not corrected, it would be a challenge for the MPs to pass the bill which seeks to authorise government to take over the debt totalling at $1,3 billion.
“There is a serious error of oversight which needs to be corrected before parliament is to approve. There are issues to be corrected which are so glaring for us to be called parliament we have discharged our oversight role.”
The RBZ debt was incurred by the central bank when it undertook quasi fiscal activities on behalf of the state which included funding of elections and other functions.
“Let us look at the FBC-Afreximbank, the loan amount is shown as $1.7 million, in other words we owe $1.7 million as at December 2008.
“The suggestion from the schedule is that Parliament approves that loan as having grown to $43 million, that is a serious oversight which cannot be allowed because it’s an over statement of $40 million and Parliament cannot be expected to approve the bill in its current form,” Kereke said.
The central bank has tabled a bill through the ministry of Finance before Parliament to have the $1.3 billion debt it incurred while carrying out quasi-fiscal mandates on behalf of the state in 2008 be taken over and paid by ordinary citizens.
Kereke also listed the loan advanced to RBZ by a South Africa based company, ASP marketing of $25.8 million to have been inflated by more than $20 million to $41.2 million at an interest rate of three percent per annum over eight years.