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Prosecution recommended for Zinara looters

by Staff reporter
28 Apr 2021 at 05:12hrs | Views
ZINARA officials involved in special projects undertaken with questionable and dubious contractors between 2012 and 2016, that prejudiced the Zimbabwe National Road Administration of US$71,5 million and R31,5 million need to be arrested and tried, the Parliament's powerful Public Accounts Committee has recommended.

This was after it found that ZINARA, in defiance of its own mandate as a revenue collector and not an operational authority, made special deals with contractors to do road work with many of these dubious contractors taking the cash and doing nothing.

Among the weirder abuses were gym equipment for seven senior managers, at a cost of US$4 000 each, Christmas hampers worth US$9 600 each for board members, buried in the accounts under office supplies, and US$24 500 spent on hair dos for women employees.

Those officials who are no longer with ZINARA, the committee said, must also be tracked down and charged over the allegedly illicit deals. There was a major clean out of senior ZINARA staff in the early days of the Second Republic.

The committee, whose report was presented before Parliament last week, wants the police, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) and the National Prosecuting Authority to be served with the report within two weeks of its adoption by the National Assembly, along with the audit reports, for a thorough investigation on commissions and omissions by named individuals and officials.  

And there are some who were with the now defunct State Procurement Board who also need to have their day in court, reckons the committee. In coming up with the latest report, the committee interviewed stakeholders involved in the deals and also made use of a forensic report and the Auditor General's analysed audit reports for 2017 and 2018.

ZINARA is said to have entered special contracts directly with companies in violation of the Roads Act. Most companies, engaged for the projects, did not deliver despite receiving lots of money. ZINARA has no authority under the Act of entering into any special contracts with any contractors.

"Section 7 of the Roads Act obligates ZINARA to allocate and disburse to road authorities, funds from the Road Fund. Road authorities are defined to mean the department of roads, rural and urban councils, and District Development Fund (DDF). The committee added: "Contrary to the provisions of the Act, between 2011 and 2016, ZINARA disbursed funds towards special projects ostensibly for the construction of roads and road infrastructure to various companies and entities. A total of US$ 71 487 896,21 and R31 452 102,53 was disbursed to various contractors..."

Besides the criminal investigations, the committee recommended that disciplinary action should be taken within six months against all concerned employees at ZINARA from senior and middle management to lower level staff that were operating during the period under discussion. Some ZINARA staffers, according to the committee, benefited from the breaches of the law.

"The committee makes the finding that millions of dollars were lost through failure to go to tender, overpayment of contracts or the manipulation and alteration of contracts after the then Tender Board had made approval subject to certain conditions or the deliberate misleading of ZINARA.

"The committee makes the finding that ZINARA management and employees abused their offices where they fraudulently and corruptly benefited from the breach of Zimbabwean laws."

The committee also recommended that ex-board members who looted through unjustified hefty allowances, must pay back the money.

"The current and former board of directors who were unlawfully paid allowances outside the terms of reference and contracts should be asked to refund and pay back what was paid to them within six months of the adoption of this report. In the event of failure, legal action should be instituted," reads the report.

The Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development, the late Minister and national hero Joel Biggie Matiza, together with the new ZINARA board have since conceded and accepted that ZINARA had no authority to engage in special projects and that special projects had been done outside the Roads Act.

"More importantly, the minister and ZINARA board assured the committee that ZINARA had stopped and ceased implementation and execution of special projects.

"The board further undertook to pursue all outstanding contractual issues with the contractors," reads the committee's report.

Board members received hefty fees and allowances without approval of the parent ministry. Besides probable corruption, the committee also weighed in on ZINARA's management. ZINARA's average wage expenditures were 11 percent of total expenditure, rather than the 2,5 percent set by law.

During the financial year 2013, seven senior managers received gym equipment worth USD $4 000 each. A total amount of USD $27 000 was paid to OK Mart from ZINARA's account.

The Auditors noted there was no provision of gym equipment in the contracts of the these seven individuals.

Furthermore, the auditors noted that the concerned employees already had a contractual paid benefit to any gym or sports club of their choice. The gym allowance was not processed through the payroll and the payment voucher was not acquitted.

For the period 2011 to 2013, a hair allowance was paid for every woman employee for a hair do at She and He, Red Rose and Ladies Hairdo saloons for a total amount of USD $24 500.  

The employees' contracts did not provide for this benefit and further, just like the gym allowance, this allowance was not processed through the payroll.  

Apart from huge board fees, board members were the recipients of a number of unauthorised goods and payments which included Christmas hampers worth US$ 55 700 bought from OK Mart on 11 December 2018 from a CBZ account.

"Each board member received hampers valued at US$ 9 600. The Christmas hampers were accounted for in the records of ZINARA as expenditure for 'office supplies'," reads the committee's latest report.

Source - the herald
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