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Three Zimbabwe ministers caught red handed looting development funds

THE Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund (Zimdef) scam, implicating Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo and his deputy, Godfrey Gandawa, has dragged in their predecessors, Olivia Muchena and the late Stan Mudenge, who, according to documents at hand, were also caught with their fingers in the till during their time in office.

BY RICHARD CHIDZA/OBEY MANAYITI

Documents in our possession show that a Zimdef financial probe ordered by Moyo’s predecessor, Oppah Muchinguri, unearthed numerous irregularities and financial sleaze, which Moyo ignored, when he took over the ministry last year.

“Zimdef funds are solely contributed by industry and commerce and are aimed at funding the development of skilled manpower in Zimbabwe. It seems as if provisions of the Manpower Planning and Development Act, Chapter 28:02, were over-stretched by the ministry to fit whatever expenditures that could be justified,” the audit report, produced by the National Manpower Advisory Council (Namaco), read in part.

“In discussions with various persons occupying posts that are related to Zimdef work, they asserted that there was a culture of widespread intimidation, victimisation, bullying, blackmailing and other malpractices.”

The audit reveals shocking details of the sleaze, implicating former permanent secretary, Washington Mbizvo, Gandawa and Muchena.

According to the audit report, $11 000 drawn from Zimdef was spent at Mudenge’s funeral to buy banners, T-shirts and pay for advertisements.

“Ironically, another request for $2 000 from the permanent secretary for the same funeral is dated February 13, 2013, four months after the death of the minister,” the report said.

Muchena also allegedly benefited substantially from the underhand dealings at the State institution.

“On August 24, 2014, deputy minister Gandawa approved a policy that would provide the trustee (minister), inter alia, with an off-road 4×4 motor vehicle and a modestly furnished office at Zimdef head office,” the report continued.

According to the audit, Zimdef then bought cars for Muchena’s aides — a Toyota double cab for a “Mr Karimanzira (professional assistant to the trustee), a Mazda BT50 double cab for Mrs Mapfumo (personal assistant to the trustee) and a Mazda BT50 double cab for trustee”.

“In reality, they received a fuel tanker’s worth in a four-month period for her (Muchena’s) exclusive consumption.
This is excessive fuel usage for one person monitoring Zimdef activities,” the Namaco report continued.

Mudenge, according to the report, received 10 522 litres of fuel between May 2011 and September 2012.

“For a 10km per litre car, this would mean 2 000km per week and 105 220km for one year and three months’ period.

There are no reports at Zimdef regarding the actual work covered by such trips. We cannot tell whether the trustee actually received all these fuel coupons,” the audit report reveals.

The report also claims Gandawa received 4 000 litres between September and December 2014.

“This would cover 10 000km per month and 40 000km for the four months’ period. This is also high for a person monitoring Zimdef activities,” the report said.

Other managerial staff at the institution, including the chief executive officer, Fredrick Mandizvidza, also benefited from the excessive fuel allocations.

Mbizvo is alleged to have instructed Zimdef to purchase flats from the Local Government ministry to house mostly civil servants, whose policy states that they pay rent of no more than 5% of their basic salary.

“The actual amounts paid by civil servants range from $10 to $20 per month for two-bedroomed flats,” the report says.

“The amount of $1 184 669,94 spent on residential flats and $239 020 on a house in Highlands (51 Montgomery Road) appear incongruent with Zimdef, which is a human skills development (organisation). The flats are 82% occupied by ministry staff, who pay very low rentals ranging from $10 to $20 per month.”

Zimdef, according to the audit, also spent $2,6 million on a vacant stand opposite State House, and another $2,2 million on Pandhari Lodge in the process, opting to pay “the highest valuation price”.

“There is no justification to pay a premium for a property which is inappropriate for a hotel school and whose location is disadvantageous to students,” the auditors noted.

While Namaco recommended to the minister, as the Zimdef trustee, to have a look at the forensic audit of universities and colleges, as well as polytechnics under his watch, Moyo, according to insiders, shelved the issue.

“The recommendations were never implemented after Muchinguri left,” a source claimed.

Mbizvo, according to the audit report, operated a one-man band.

According to the audit, Mbizvo ordered Zimdef to fund “end-of-year Christmas parties and hampers at the ministry, secretaries’ day celebrations and dinner dances”.

“A loan of $5 000 was extended to Judith Kateera of the Office of the President and Cabinet and $3 000 to Avril Mhembere, whose origins are unknown,” the report says.

“These loans were said to be for shipping books and other academic material by the two ladies to Zimbabwe on completion of their courses overseas.”

Under the bereavement token, from which Moyo is said to have benefited $24 000 following the death of his daughter last year, the audit said “there is no clear policy on which funerals and items Zimdef is supposed to fund”.

Moyo and Gandawa are alleged to have diverted over $400 000 Zimdef funds to bankroll Zanu PF and their own constituency projects.

The minister is also facing a fresh probe for allegedly failing to account for $200 000 raised through elephant sales to construct a soccer stadium in his Tsholotsho North constituency.

On the Tsholotsho elephant sales issue, Moyo is reportedly being investigated by Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority officials on how he managed the proceeds.

Each elephant was sold for approximately $20 000.

Then Environment minister Saviour Kasukuwere had approved the sale of 60 elephants to raise funds for the project, with the price of each elephant pegged at $20 000.

“Please be advised that the minister has approved a 2015 supplementary quota of 60 elephants for the purposes of constructing Tsholotsho Stadium at Tsholotsho Growth Point in Matabeleland North,” read a letter by the ministry’s permanent secretary, Prince Mupazviriho, to the Tsholotsho district administrator in February last year.

Efforts to get a comment from Moyo and Gandawa were fruitless yesterday.

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