BY Desmond Chingarande
A WITNESS in the matter of former Public Service minister Priscah Mupfumira, who is accused of criminal abuse of office after allegedly flouting tender procedures, has made a U-turn on her earlier testimony claiming she had not been pressured by the ex-minister.
Mupfumira and National Social Security Authority (NSSA) director Barnabas Matongera are jointly charged and accused of not seeking board approval and flouted tender processes by entering into a housing project prejudicing NSSA of US$6,5 million.
The witness, Memory Mukondomi, had on Tuesday told magistrate Ngoni Nduna that Mupfumira had pressured her by giving her 48 hours to complete the deal.
But yesterday under cross-examination by Mupfumira’s lawyer Admire Rubaya, she admitted that the former minister was not involved in the meeting that sealed the deal. Instead, she said that it was NSSA board chair Robin Vela who issued that ultimatum to complete the deal.
Mupfumira is accused of acting contrary to her duties by directing NSSA to engage in the Muzenya off-take housing project in Gwer,u which resulted in Drawcard Enterprises entering into an agreement with NSSA without following a tender process.
Matongera is accused of signing the housing project agreement with Drawcard without a NSSA board approval and having not followed the tender process.
The duo believes that they were wrongly accused and that the board should have been the one in the dock as every testimony points to irregularities by the NSSA board.
Mukondomi, who was the director of finance and administration in the Public Service ministry, then headed by Mupfumira and now with the Finance ministry, had on Tuesday accused the former minister of influencing NSSA into partaking the project saying she was under instructions.
Rubaya, however, asked Mukondomi if pushing for the completion of the agreement was tantamount to forcing them to disregard the procurement process to which she said it was not.
Mukondomi said Mupfumira never sat in the board and that she was a policymaker and the ministry’s political figurehead. Mukondomi was the link between NSSA and the Public Service ministry.
Matongera’s lawyer, Richard Masinire questioned Mukondomi’s credibility pointing out that she was sitting on the NSSA board from 2012 yet she told the court that she was seconded there in 2014.
He further pointed out that such agreements did not require procurement processes, producing the June 2017 board minutes which Mukondomi agreed to have been part of.
“A new housing project structure was being proposed for the properties division. A contractor will be required to have title of the piece of land on which it would construct houses. The land will be ceded to the authority as security of funds provided to develop the land and a performance guarantee would also be required for any funds provided over and above the value of the land. The houses will be sold to the authority at an agreed fixed price. This investment model would not be subject to approval by the State Procurement Board,” the minutes read.
He also further said Matongera was not the accounting officer as shown by the agreement between NSSA and Drawcard, which stated that Elizabeth Chitiga was the representative of NSSA, hence she was responsible for everything.
“The general manager (Chitiga) was authorised to sign all documents on behalf of the authority,” the minutes read, which Masinire said showed that Chitiga was responsible for everything and that if tender processes were not followed then the board was responsible as the minutes stated.
Another, Witness Lovemore Nyika, who was a director at NSSA, told the court that in his statement to Zacc, he only talked of Matongera and Chitiga as at his level he did not interact with the minister.
He said he did not know what part Mupfumira played in the awarding of the contract for the housing project.
Magistrate Nduna postponed the matter to today for continuation.