Criminal charges for ex-Zimra chief

Source: Criminal charges for ex-Zimra chief | The Sunday Mail Jun 4, 2017

Brian Chitemba Investigations Editor
Former Zimbabwe Revenue Authority Commissioner-General Mr Gershem Pasi who recently resigned after being suspended over 45 charges of misconduct will not walk free as the authority will press criminal charges against him.

Zimra board chair Mrs Willia Bonyongwe told The Sunday Mail that serious allegations of corruption will be pursued despite Mr Pasi’s resignation.

The former Zimra Comm-Gen tendered his resignation on May 22, 2017, citing irretrievably broken down relations with Zimra.

Mrs Bonyongwe said, “In terms of what action the board will take against (Mr Pasi), the answer is nothing apart from the normal termination procedure. But that is not to say the charges will be ignored. I must emphasise that the board has not negotiated any exit package with the Commissioner-General.

“However, both the board and Ministry of Finance and Economic Development are in agreement that the charges which are of a criminal nature will not be washed away. Any charges relating to corruption, abuse of office or anything of a criminal nature will be pursued through the relevant state authorities.”

She added, “Mr Pasi was going through a disciplinary hearing. You are aware that when he was charged, he contested a number of issues, including the authority of the board to charge him and the code under which he was charged. He also contested the audit process (in fact, he refused to cooperate with the forensic auditors) and contested the audit report itself.

“He claimed that the board chair (Mrs Bonyongwe) was pursuing him out of malice. The High Court did not agree with him and ruled that the suspension, audit process and the hearing process was lawful and that he should defend himself.

“The process started end of October 2016. Mr Pasi decided to resign with immediate effect on May 22, 2017 before the process was completed. Legally, this terminated the process because the board cannot discipline one who is not its employee. This was unfortunate because it would have been an opportunity to clarify issues and to have him clear his name.”

A forensic audit by HLB Chartered Accountants linked Mr Pasi to corruption bordering on fraud, tax evasion, poor corporate governance, which prejudiced Zimra of over US$20 million.

Mr Pasi is accused of flouting tender regulations after signing a US$14 million contract with AVIC International for the supply of uniforms and tollgate equipment outside procurement procedures. The former Zimra boss also allegedly allocated himself US$374 451 in vehicle allowances between 2014 and May 2016 without board approval.

Further, he reportedly received “excessive” holiday and other “unexplained” allowances amounting to over US$320 000, and was allegedly involved in a vehicle import scam.

Zimra is also probing senior officials Mr Robert Mangwiro, Mr Shadreck Dimingo, Mrs Truenia Dimingo and Mr Tjiyapo Velempini over the vehicle case.

Mr Pasi, however, denied any wrong-doing even as he resigned.

His resignation letter reads, in part, “My employer has without just or lawful cause preferred unfounded charges against me. The charges ring hollow being based as they are upon an incompetent audit report prepared by auditors, who abdicated their most basic functions and responsibilities.”

Mrs Bonyongwe told The Sunday Mail that hearings on the suspended officials were almost complete.

She said, “There were two Forensic Audits by HLB Zimbabwe (formerly Ruzengwe and Partners) and another by Deloitte. Both reports have similar findings and in our view they were both very professionally done and have helped the board to strengthen internal control systems and enforce best practices. The HLB one was completed first and about seven Zimra officers were suspended and charged to appear before disciplinary hearings. When the Deloitte forensic report was finalised, officers in the ICT department were also suspended and additional charges were proffered to the Commissioner General.”

She continued: “The hearings have progressed considerably with most either complete or almost complete. Two are at appeal stage. The ones which were behind related to the Commissioner-General (Mr Pasi) and to Mr T Velempini, the Director ICT and Infrastructure.

“The latter is still at its early stages and the one for the Commissioner-General was terminated by the employee. Zimra is currently being run by acting officers, and we expect that the hearings will be finalised over the next two months and that we should be able to fill any vacant posts for the organisation to move on.”