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Bulawayo City Council blames human error for 'Barnabas' land ownership dispute

by Staff reporter
26 Nov 2023 at 08:22hrs | Views
THE Bulawayo City Council (BCC) is locked in a fraud allegation with a local war veteran, Jackson Barnabas Sibanda emanating from an error of omission involving a piece of land that the latter bought for the purpose of aircraft research.

According to a council confidential report, the local authority is accused of selling the stand located in Kelvin North to a company owned by Sibanda, but instead of awarding him with an agreement of sale, they gave him a lease.

The local authority is further accused of omitting two crucial words in the agreement of sale, which made the document inadmissible legally but claimed that the complainant is of a violent nature which made dealing with him difficult.

This all came out during a site visit, by the then Mayor, Mr Solomon Mguni, to the affected stand which Sibanda's company, Kinetic Engineering, is turning into a technology centre. During the signing of the agreement of sale, two crucial letters were "intentionally omitted" from the wording in clause 6 which shows details of the purchase price.

The clause indicates that: "The purchase price for the stand shall be the sum of $117 000 exclusive of 15 percent VAT, of which the full purchase price has been paid. Therefore, there are two possible interpretations of the clause in question, it may suggest that the purchase price has been paid or has to be paid as agreed upon. The clause may be difficult to understand and may render the agreement unenforceable in legal proceedings."

In responding to the anomaly, the local authority blamed it on human error, noting that it was just a typographical oversight which they had later addressed through the inclusion on the letters "en" to "be" to change it to "been".

It was further discovered that the stand in question has three different agreements of sale, which all differ from each other owing to the various edits that were enacted, further compounding the legality of the documents.

In defending this, the local authority's Town Planning Department claimed that the then acting estates officer, a Ms Sandra Ndlovu was a junior officer, acting in a senior position and that the estates section had only four staffers, all of them in acting position, but managing the 5 000 properties hence effective supervision was not possible.

"To further compound the problems, the complainant (Mr Sibanda) is a very violent person, who on numerous occasions threatened to beat up the acting estates officer and at one time, he forcibly took away the file for the stand and made photocopies of documents including internal memos. He also removed all the original agreements and took them away. The second and third agreement he took them to City Hall and filed them in the Chamber Secretary's file, hence some of the errors were committed in an effort to get rid of the violent complainant," reads the report.

The council's internal audit also noted an inconsistency in the agreement of sale document where while the heading of the document was clear, sub-headings then referred to a lease agreement, which once again rendered the document inadmissible legally.

"Based on the facts provided, three key issues exist pertaining to the agreement of sale between the city and Kinetic Engineering. Firstly, the missing letters in the initial agreement raised concerns about whether the purchase price was paid or will be paid. Secondly, the internal communication stating that Kinetic Engineering is listed as a lessee, contradicts the agreement of sale, thirdly, variations in the agreement of sale held by the departments indicate weaknesses in controls of critical documentation.

"Based on these discrepancies, it is reasonable to assume that fraudulent activities or irregularities may have occurred in this scenario. However, upon reviewing the additional information provided and further analysis, audit has concluded that the anomalies are mainly as a result of human error and laxity in controls over supervision of staff and reviews, with no intention of causing loss to Kinetic Engineering," reads the report.

Source - The Sunday News
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