Community service scandal unearthed

Source: Community service scandal unearthed | Herald (Africa)

Daniel Nemukuyu Investigations and Special Reports Editor

The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) is investigating if Harare businessman Tonny Sarpo indeed performed community service, given as an alternative to a jail term for vehicle theft, at Morris Depot.

This follows two conflicting reports from the police on queries by the Department of Community Service. The first report said Sarpo, who is a director of an engineering company, had not reported for community service, while the second report said he had reported, but giving some work dates that fell on weekends.

The department’s officers, who visited the depot in mid-January, failed to locate Sarpo. Apparently, Sarpo had asked the court to be allowed to do his community service at Morris Depot. As is required, community service officers made a follow up and were told by police officers at the quartermaster’s office that Sarpo had never reported for work since his sentence in December last year.

The director of community service in the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Ms Loice Majonga then wrote a report to the Harare Magistrates’ Court and a warrant of arrest was issued against Sarpo.

Police responded saying Sarpo was performing community service at the depot workshop and submitted signed roster sheets.

However, the court order directed the businessman to do community service during weekdays, but the police report showed that Sarpo performed unpaid work even on weekends.

The same report showed signatures of the offender and that of the police supervisor on December 21 2019, which was a Saturday, on January 9, 2020, which was a Thursday and the next day, a Friday. But then there were also signatures for January 11, which was a Saturday.

However, on the strength of the police statement that the businessman performed community service, a Harare magistrate cancelled the warrant of arrest. ZACC was then called in. The person whose car was stolen has been active in following up the matter and made a formal complaint. ZACC chairperson Justice Loice Matanda-Moyo confirmed receiving the report from the complainant. 

“I can confirm that we received a report of possible corruption involving a man who is said to have defaulted on community service. I have referred the report to the investigators, who are now investigating the case.”

Ms Majonga insists that the offender never performed community service. In her letter to the businessman’s lawyers, Ms Majonga said there was need for an inquiry.

“The Community Service Department notes your interest in this matter and would like to advise that it stands by its initially established position that your client never reported at Morris Depot to do community service.

“Furthermore, please take notice, that the breach enquiry procedure has already been initiated and it is our considered view, buttressed by the community service policy framework or terms of reference that such matters be handled by way of conducting breach enquiries,” reads the letter dated January 21 2020.

The quartermaster’s office at Morris Depot on January 15 commented as follows:

“Please be advised that we never saw this person at our premises ever since.”

Contrary to the January 15 report, Inspector J. Bvonyongwa wrote another statement later saying: “I hereby confirm that the above mentioned man has been reporting for duty at this workshop as indicated on the attached duty roster from December 21 2019. When the court made a visit through the Community Service office to Morris Depot, on the 15th of January 2020, they visited the wrong office, which is not conversant with the goings on at the workshop.”

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