Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Zinara chef admits abusing funds

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Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (Zinara) executives yesterday admitted to receiving several allowances without paying tax, including others that were above authorised levels.

The executives that included chief executive officer Mrs Nancy Masiyiwa-Chamisa, finance director Mr Simon Taranhike, technical director Mr Moses Juma and administration and human resources director Mr Precious Murove appeared before the Public Accounts Committee yesterday to respond to observations by the Auditor-General Ms Mildred Chiri in her 2015 and 2016 audit report.

Mr Juma once acted as Zinara's chief executive officer between 2014 and 2016, while Mr Murove was the acting finance director during the same period.

They both admitted to receiving irregular payments without paying taxes and also authorising payments to contractors without supporting documents.

The audit report indicated that the directors at the institution contravened the Income Tax Act when they received home telephone and private mileage fuel allowances that were not processed through the normal payroll to avoid taxation.

Messers Juma and Murove also admitted to receiving $36 383 in allowances in excess of what was approved, while staff occupying managerial positions also got $3 000 for corporate wear in contravention of company policies and procedures.

The Auditor-General's report also showed that Zinara's board members had their tax liabilities paid by the organisation without approval from the minister, while their mobile phone allowances amounting to $137 417 were not taxed.

Asked whether or not he benefited from the untaxed allowances, Mr Juma said: "I benefited from that."

Mr Murove also admitted to receiving the money and when asked by Matabeleland South proportional representative member Mrs Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga why they authorised the payments, he said it was an "oversight on our part."

The audit report also noted that salaries, allowances and other expenses at the organisation were at 11 percent of revenues above the 2,5 percent prescribed ratio in the Roads Act.

A contractor engaged for road surfacing works at One Commando Barracks and Police General Headquarters was paid $748 116,9 without supporting documents, while $1,7 million was paid to the Airport Road contractor and the Department of Roads under similar circumstances.

Hurungwe North representative Cde Reuben Marumahoko blasted the manner in which Zinara management handled the organisation's business.

"It appears it was a culture (of subverting procedures), we are dealing with the same thing here," said Cde Marumahoko.

Mrs Masiyiwa-Chamisa admitted that a number of things were done irregularly, but pledged to correct the anomalies.

"I think we are dealing with a lot of anomalies here," she said.

"It is our responsibility as the management and executive of Zinara that we adhere to set guidelines.

"Even then, we were supposed to (adhere to guidelines and principles), but we did not, but as professionals and as custodians of public funds we are supposed to make sure that when we handle those funds we are supposed to do                                                          that."

Mabvuku-Tafara representative Mr James Maridadi then asked her what action she had taken against those responsible for the irregularities.

"Disciplinary measures had to be taken. It could have been done then, but it was not done," said Mrs Masiyiwa-Chamisa

Mrs Misihairabwi-Mushonga then asked her if she was facing any challenges in instituting disciplinary measures against employees responsible for the irregularities.

"I have done that before," she said. "I saw problems and I took the necessary disciplinary measures and it was all in the papers what I did and what happened then.

"There was abuse of office and I suspended some of the directors and managers and the suspensions were reversed."

Pressed on who reversed the suspension, she said: "It was a directive from the board."

Those who were suspended last year included Mr Murove, Mr Taranhike, finance manager Mr Shadreck Matengabadza and administration manager Mr Peter Bweterere.

They faced allegations that included violating tender and procurement procedures.