By Anna Chibamu
HARARE East MP, Tendai Biti had a bruising stand-off with Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor, John Mangudya who felt irritated by the Public Accounts Parliamentary Committee chair’s persistent questioning over reported central bank irregularities in the issuance of Treasury Bills (TBs).
This is after Mangudya had Thursday appeared before Biti’s committee to give oral evidence on the controversial issuance of TBs amounting to $2.1 billion.
The Treasury Bills were issued to NatPharm, FSG, SeedCo and other utility services under unclear circumstances.
“Governor (Mangudya) you broke the laws of this country,” Biti charged.
“Some of the payments you made did not even appear in the Blue Book and you did not explain the purpose of spending those huge amounts. What was the legal basis of you issuing those TBs?”
In his response, Mangudya said all the payments being referred to were authorised by the Finance Ministry.
He accused the Auditor General who exposed the irregularities of making errors in her reports.
According to Biti, the issuance of Treasury Bills should be made by a minister under defined conditions.
Mangudya still pleaded his innocence.
“If instructed by the Minister to make payments through TBs, I am binded by the Reserve Bank Act to follow the minister’s instruction… “
The central bank chief felt the grilling was becoming personal, shooting back at Biti whom he accused of attempts to victimise him.
“This idea of burning other people is not good,” he said.
Biti was quick to fire back; “Do not ascribe that to members. You are the one who is giving evidence and not Parliamentarians.”
The former Finance Minister also demanded from Mangudya, letters the governor wrote to then Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa in 2016 requesting payment authorisation.
“We are just talking about your letters to Chinamasa. Can we have them?” Biti said.
Mangudya declined to hand the letters over claiming there were members of the public and journalists who should not be privy to sensitive information on RBZ internal affairs.
“Chairman this is a public. This is a public because there are members of the fourth estate (journalists) which are here,” he said.
Biti responded, “No, no, no, John, you are disrespecting this committee. These are members of the committee and not journalists.
“We are giving letters to members of parliament and not journalists. How many times have you given us things that are sensitive… John can you give me those letters?”
Chirumanzu MP and committee member Barbara Rwodzi had to intervene and calm down the situation.
“It is not yet time for me to ask my question but maybe just to correct the situation that we have in the house between you (chairman) and the governor.
“Can we all be calm because it seems there is a fight between the two of you?
“It seems this whole exercise is between the two of you; can you all be calm and conduct this exercise calmly.
“It is not about personal issues, what has happened in the past or what is happening now. We are just conducting a Parliament exercise,” said Rwodzi.