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NSSA rot sucks in another minister

by Staff reporter
12 Nov 2019 at 07:27hrs | Views
FORMER Public Service minister Sekai Nzenza allegedly ordered State pension manager, National Social Security Authority (NSSA) to pay $1,8 million to a group of local experts she handpicked to unpack a forensic audit report produced by BDO Zimbabwe Chartered Accountants, which implicated her predecessor Priscah Mupfumira.

BDO had been paid US$120 000 for the report which exposed Mupfumira's alleged US$95 million fraud.

Nzenza, who was last week shuffled to Industry and Commerce ministry, is also alleged to have handpicked a private local company to do an information communication technology health check on NSSA books without going to tender.

She is also alleged to have prejudiced the pension fund of US$2 300 in monthly rentals after she caused the eviction of tenants staying in a NSSA property to pave way for her. She later withdrew from the deal after management had raised a red flag on the issue.

The BDO report also implicated former NSSA board chair Robin Vela and resulted in 24 top executives being sent on forced leave.

But it has since emerged that Nzenza, in trying to unpack the findings of the report, caused further prejudice to NSSA by improperly engaging some local financial experts without going to tender and ordering the authority to pay them $1,8 million.

Well-placed sources yesterday told NewsDay that the $1,8 million was transferred to the experts, bank accounts in September and was over $200 000 in US$ terms.

Contacted for comment, Nzenza said she was out of town and referred questions to NSSA board chairperson Cuthbert Chidoori.

"I am not in town and network is bad. You are looking for a story, but I would like to have a full interview with you rather than Whatsup (sic) communication. In the meantime, please speak to chairman of the NSSA board," Nzenza said.

Chidoori confirmed they had hired experts to dissect the audit report, but declined to name the alleged experts or disclose how much they were paid for their services.

"We did have experts, and we were basically going through the process. We got the forensic audit report first and we had to dissect it. We engaged the experts and we are implementing their recommendations. The money was paid through formal channels at NSSA, through the accounts department. You can consult Tendayi Mutseyekwa, the NSSA spokesperson," Chidoori said without disclosing the amount paid. He said NSSA would organise a Press conference soon, possibly this week, to update people on the developments.

Mutseyekwa said: "I cannot comment as I am not privy to the details pertaining to this case."

But NSSA insiders maintained that the minister handpicked the experts through one board member whom she is said to be close to.

"NSSA paid about $1,8 million for the services, an amount higher than that paid for the forensic report," a source said.

According to a letter dated May 15, 2018 to acting NSSA general manager Emerson Mungwariri, BDO Zimbabwe confirmed that it was paid $119 778 for the forensic audit.

"National Social Security Authority shall be responsible for the fees. The fee has been agreed at the tendered amount of $119, 778 including VAT and disbursements. The fee will only change if there has been a variable of the scope of the work to be done and the charge has been approved by the Auditor-General," part of the letter by Gilbert Gwatiringa, a BDO partner read.

With regards to the experts, NewsDay is informed that the issue raised a lot of dust and some managers demanded that the process goes through tender.

"In fact, there was the first group that was appointed to scrutinise the BDO report but they turned down the offer demanding that the process goes through the normal tender process so that their backs are covered," one Nssa insider revealed.

"That is when Nzenza, through one of the board members, settled for these that have already been paid before the work is complete. There were some efforts to cover up by approaching the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe but this was after the six experts had already been paid."

The insider added: "There was also a company appointed this year to do an ICT health check at NSSA. The company charged US$50 000 and after other managers demanded that the process go through tender, the money was cut to US$5 000. The company then got the job and turned the tables at NSSA, demanding CVs from managers. We wonder if that is an ICT health check?" another source revealed.

"It is believed the suspension of the managers has more to do with the health check than the BDO report," the source added.

NSSA is also said to have evicted two foreign tenants leasing its houses in Borrowdale to pave way for Nzenza and her deputy, Lovemore Matuke.

"The tenants were paying US$2 300 for the two houses. Minister Nzenza wanted to use one and demanded installation of a solar system, security alarm, borehole as well as construction of a guardroom. The quotations for those items were much higher than what can be allowed in the office of the GM, but needed a board resolution," a NSSA insider said.

"It was also raised that for a minister, there was a need to engage the Local Government ministry and the Office of the President. The Local Government ministry said it could only pay rentals of about $2 300.

"The question was then raised on who would pay the difference to cover up for the pension funds and Nzenza and Matuke eventually did not go to occupy the houses, but the tenants paying US dollars had already been chucked out on short notice," the insider added.

The BDO report, which was released by Nzenza after several months of haggling, has not been shown to the NSSA management, most of whom are on forced leave, as well as stakeholders through the Tripartite Negotiating Forum.

ZCTU president Peter Mutasa said his organisation has written to Nzenza seeking an explanation on the hiring of the experts, but received no response.

"We have written to the minister demanding answers. We had hoped that she would present even the audit report to the stakeholders through the TNF but this was not done,"Mutasa said.
Source - newsday