Audit team summons council directors

Source: Audit team summons council directors – Sunday News Jun 25, 2017

Vusumuzi Dube, Municipal Reporter
BULAWAYO City Council top officials are reportedly in trouble and have attracted an audit investigation after they allegedly had the finance department deposit back funds they had paid as part of their vehicle loan repayments.

The scam which was exposed by Sunday News a couple of months ago saw four of the city’s top executives — the chamber secretary, Mrs Sikhangele Zhou, engineering director; Engineer Simela Dube, finance director; Mr Kimpton Ndimande and the human resources manager, Mr Makhosi Tshalebwa — getting over $100 000 deposited to their accounts without any council resolution endorsing the move.

The money had initially been deducted from their salaries as part of top of the range vehicle loans they had got from the local authority. According to council documentation, the directors had requested that their loans be written off through the encashment of their leave days. However, before they got authority to encash the leave days, Mr Ndimande is said to have been ordered to reimburse the directors without a council resolution.

Responding to questions during a media briefing held in the council chambers on Friday, the Town Clerk, Mr Christopher Dube confirmed that the audit team had summoned the directors and the Mayor, Councillor Martin Moyo to get to the bottom of the matter.

“I can confirm that audit is looking at the matter. To date we (directors) have all appeared before the committee, another session will now be held where the mayor is also set to appear before the committee regarding the same matter. After that we shall have to wait to see what action the committee will recommend but for now we won’t pre-empt anything, we shall have to wait and see what the audit will say so that we know the action to be taken,” said Mr Dube.

However, sources close to the investigations revealed that initially the committee had summoned Mr Ndimande to clarify why he had made the transaction without councillors’ authority but the investigation had to be broadened after he indicated that he had been directed by Mr Dube to make the deposits.

“The financial director indicated that he had been instructed by the Town Clerk hence the need for Mr Dube to appear before the team. When questioned; the Town Clerk confirmed giving the directive but claimed he had consulted Clr Moyo for him to make the decision.

“One thing that has been agreed on is that there was some sort of fraud that took place and that someone has to take the fall for it, it is now up to the audit team to single out who exactly was wrong. What makes this even more serious is that councillors were only made aware of it through an anonymous letter by junior staff members meaning that this had been swept under the carpet,” said the source.

According to the tip-off document from the junior staffers, they called on council to urgently investigate the matter as this was tantamount to criminal abuse of office.

“You are kindly alerted that there is an allegation to the effect that four senior council officials who had applied to encash their vacation leave days in January 2017 went on to violate procedures by enjoying the benefits prior to authentic authorisation by appropriate council resolution. The four members of staff benefited prematurely and unfairly too, to the prejudice of council.

The deed could be viewed as criminal abuse of office,” reads part of the report.

The directors — with the approval of the Town Clerk, are alleged to have tried to cover their tracks by making an application for the same leave days to be used to write off their vehicle loan balances.

According to a council confidential report from 1 February 2017, the four directors were owed a combined figure of $101 644 in leave days with Mrs Zhou’s days calculated at $21 147, Mr Ndimande; $26 055, Eng Dube; $24 362 and Mr Tshalebwa; $30 080.