The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) is embroiled in a storm amid reports that it diverted $51 000 from a Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ)-funded project to send two officials to Hong Kong under unclear circumstances, it has been revealed.
Source: Zacc pair in $51 000 storm – NewsDay Zimbabwe November 18, 2016
By Everson Mushava
According to impeccable sources, Zacc commissioners Catherine Muchechetere and Farai Mashonganyika flew to Hong Kong on Saturday aboard Emirates flight EK714 for unspecified training.
The two embarked on the trip despite Treasury’s refusal on November 8 to finance the excursion on the grounds that government was broke.
Muchechetere and Mashonganyika reportedly also bought tickets for their husbands (names supplied) to join them in Hong Kong at a later date.
The tickets were bought through the $400 000 released by the RBZ in Treasury bonds to fund Zacc operations and to bankroll a baseline survey on a yet-to-be-disclosed subject.
To access the money, Zacc needed authority from Treasury, which was, however, denied. The trip is now a subject of investigation by the Office of the President and Cabinet.
It is understood Goodson Nguni, the Zacc commissioner responsible for investigations, was initially supposed to travel with his two colleagues after receiving $7 000 for the trip as allowances, on top of accommodation and travel. But he pulled out at the last minute after it became clear that the government had refused to sanction the jaunt.
But Nguni yesterday claimed the trip was cleared by Zacc, saying he did not travel because of a bereavement. He said he would now refund the commission the money.
“I have already written to Zacc telling them that I will refund the money because I did not go,” he said.
“Those who went were authorised by the commission. Everything they did was above board.”
Nguni was evasive when asked why Zacc had to seek Cabinet authority for the trip if it did not require government approval for foreign trips.
Government regulations stipulate that senior officials or heads of parastatals must seek Cabinet authority before embarking on foreign trips.
Investigations showed that the Finance ministry informed Zacc through a memorandum signed by one Edwin F. Vela-Moyo refusing to provide travel and subsistence allowances for the three commissioners citing lack of resources.
“It is in regard of the above that your application to travel to Hong Kong by your ministry officials at a cost of $42 996 cannot be supported due to resource constraints,” part of the memo read.
The commissioners were reportedly advised on November 11 at 4pm that there was no Cabinet authority for the trip.
Nguni immediately put his travel arrangements on hold.
Zacc sources revealed that Mashonganyika had also unsuccessfully requested for funding from the United Nations Development Programme for the same trip.
UN resident co-ordinator Bishow Parajuli, in a letter to Mashonganyika dated October 7, said: “I regret to inform you that we do not have the necessary resources to support this activity.”
After attempts to get the government and the UN to fund the trip failed, sources alleged that part of the $400 000 released by the RBZ recently was diverted to finance the commissioners’ trip.
A Zacc account with a commercial bank (name supplied) was opened where a gold visa card was applied for without the authority of the commission. The card was allegedly used to make payments for accommodation and air tickets.
“Over $28 000 was transferred for per diems into individual accounts belonging to Mashonganyika, Nguni and Muchechetere and paid for the airline tickets and accommodation without Treasury approval and knowledge of the commission,” the source said.
“The total amount of money transferred for the trip was $51 000.”
The source said it was curious that the trip did not include any members of the secretariat responsible for investigations. Previously, the Zacc secretariat has applied for training at Hong Kong University’s School of Professional and Continuing Education, but failed due to lack of government approval.
Zacc has been struggling to function due to funding constraints and more often investigators have no fuel to carry out their duties. The commission is under the spotlight after Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo accused Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa of using it to fight his factional battles in Zanu PF.
Moyo is being investigated for allegedly abusing $400 000 from the Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund, but the Constitutional Court stopped the minister’s prosecution after he challenged the way the commission carried out its investigations.