The Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (PRAZ) board Tuesday dismissed allegations by its chief executive (CEO) Nyasha Chizu that he had been forced by his bosses to go on unsanctioned leave.
Giving oral evidence before the parliamentary Finance and Budget Portfolio Committee, PRAZ board chairperson Vimbai Nyemba said the authority unanimously agreed to send Chizu on leave.
She said Chizu’s leave had nothing to do with the CEO appearing before Parliament but was an administrative issue that was being dealt with.
Chizu gave oral evidence to the committee on 6 July 2020 and was soon forced to take a 30-day leave with full benefits. The vacation has been extended by 90 days with no reason offered now by the board.
PRAZ Operations Director Clever Ruswa is acting CEO.
“Chair, I am actually surprised that there is a letter written to the Speaker requesting a certificate of protection. I am sure that was not against us because we are not a threat at all. Our relations are cordial but what we are doing is all about work. We are dealing with administrative issues which we take very seriously,” Nyemba stated.
She said there was no connection relating to Chizu’s long break over correspondence between the board and Chizu.
“The CEO has confirmed that he is on administrative leave and we are seized with internal issues. Unless he was on suspension, we could be talking about something. We are unable to share with the committee as these are internal matters.”
However, Chizu denied Nyemba’s assertion telling the committee chairperson Felix Mhona that he was put on a leave of absence and denied the right to choose an acting CEO as per the entity’s constitution.
“Unfortunately, on the 7th of July I was put on leave, so I am not in a position to respond to issues raised by you chair (Mhona). Ruswa is Acting CEO,” said Chizu adding his working relationship with the board was cordial but was surprised to receive a letter advising me that he was supposed to go on leave for 30 days, being ordered not to report for work or interfere with PRAZ’s operations.
“The letter stated it was not an investigation or a disciplinary hearing. My issues with the board might have been to do with my appearing before the committee on the 6th of July, 2020. This is the reason I asked for a certificate of protection against myself,” Chizu highlighted.
However, Mhona emphasised Parliament’s mandate was an oversight role and it needed answers on how public funds are used.
Mhona asked why Chizu was put on leave. “For the sake of integrity and transparency, you said you were put on leave. Did you apply for it? Witnesses are protected. We do not want to see witnesses being intimidated when they appear before a committee. We also do not want to dwell on issues that have nothing to do with the committee. If it is true that what you are saying is true, it is unfair and unjust on the part of the board.
In response, Chizu said: “On the 7th July, I was summoned by the board to a meeting where I was told that I go on a leave of absence for 30 days for issues that they were looking at but now I am on the 90th day of that leave. That is all I know.
“In terms of Section 10 of the Public Finance Management Act, I am supposed to appoint an acting CEO in my absence.”