PARLIAMENT has resolved to investigate the manner in which Reserve Bank Governor Dr Gideon Gono
distributed farm equipment and inputs under the Farm Mechanisation Programme amid allegations that undeserving people benefited. The hearing by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Lands and Resettlement was aborted last month after Dr Gono declined to divulge information citing bank-client confidentiality.
Dr Gono’s decision not to furnish the committee with the information resulted in heated exchanges that saw committee member and Goromonzi MP Cde Paddy Zhanda (Zanu-PF) storming out of the meeting.
In an interview yesterday, committee chairperson, Mr Moses Jiri (MDC-T) said: “We met as a committee and requested legal advice from counsel to Parliament. The legal advice that we got was that it is within our powers and jurisdiction to make the enquiries. We have therefore taken that advice and resolved as a committee to proceed with the enquiries.”
Mr Jiri is also Chikomba Central legislator. Mr Jiri said they had considered the reason advanced by Dr Gono that the RBZ Act and Banking Act did not permit him to disclose bank-client information to third parties.
“We resolved that legal provision did not apply to our enquiries. Legal statutes governing operations of Parliament supersede any other law, so that excuse cannot be used to stop our enquiries.
“He has to come and respond to our enquiries, otherwise we would invoke necessary legal statutes,” said Mr Jiri.
It was also agreed that a letter would be written to Dr Gono through the administration of Parliament advising the central bank chief of the committee’s position.
“A letter would be written through the secretariat of Parliament advising him of our position so that he can prepare to bring the documents we want at a date we are still to determine,” he said.
During the meeting, Dr Gono was asked to furnish the committee with names of people who benefited from the Government mechanisation programme at the height of the central bank’s quasi-fiscal activities.
Dr Gono indicated that he was not at liberty to disclose such information citing a clause governing banking regulations. He cited Section 60 (1) of the RBZ Act, which forbids bank staff from disclosing information relating to the affairs of the bank or a customer, unless lawfully required to do so by any court or under any enactment.
Anyone who contravenes the provision would be liable to a heavy fine or liable to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years.
Cde Zhanda said a person called before the Parliament committee to give evidence was protected under the privileges of Parliament.
Other legislators had seemed to differ with Cde Zhanda as they felt that Dr Gono should be given time to consult the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development so that he could secure clearance to give out the information.
A heated argument then ensured, leading to Cde Zhanda walking out of the meeting in a huff.Herald