Cracks emerge at UCAZ

via Cracks emerge at UCAZ | The Financial Gazette – Zimbabwe News Shame Makoshori 19 Sep 2013

CRACKS have emerged at the strife-torn Urban Councils Association of Zimbabwe (UCAZ) after suspended secretary general, Francis Duri, bounced back last month

Duri is at the centre of allegations including corruption, nepotism and financial mismanagement, all of which were exposed by an audit by KLM Chartered Accountants end of 2011.

The audit exposed how UCAZ, which represents the interests of over 50 urban authorities in Zimbabwe, had failed to remit  about US$200 000 in taxes to the State.

UCAZ had also evaded remitting other statutory obligations, including funds due to the National Social Security Authority. At least US$255 000 secured from donors for specific projects, was also diverted to unsanctioned projects, fueling the ire of its key external funders.

Duri was alleged to have exerted his clout and expended UCAZ funds on bankrolling his relatives and friends’ flights on expensive shopping sprees to China.

The UCAZ secretariat spent US$5 000 to hire a coach to transport two people to Bulawayo from Harare.

The list of charges that the UCAZ presidential committee had preferred against Duri included the following;

l On March 9, 2009, UCAZ’s finance manager withdrew US$9 000 to purchase computers. The documents say no such computers were acquired.

l On March 30, 2011, US$5 000 was withdrawn for a trip to Bulawayo. US$2 900 remains unaccounted for.

l US$1 850 has not been accounted for from a US$10 000 withdrawal for workshop expenses.

Thousands of dollars were also lost through salary payments to a ghost worker.

These issues have frustrated donors, who are demanding action.

It is alleged that some town clerks have been protecting Duri, who denies the allegations.

A UCAZ executive committee meeting held on the sidelines of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair in April this year had resolved to suspend Duri.

However, it had to take a public outcry to force UCAZ chefs to suspend him.

And when the suspension finally came, Duri used a technicalityto bounce back, according to documents seen by The Financial Gazette.

The UCAZ executive committee is currently divided over the issue.

Some had preferred that Duri remain in office, warning that suspending him would be “viewed as poor oversight on their part by the European Union (EU)”.

The EU, along with the Swedish International Development Association (SIDA) are some of the major donors of UCAZ who have been questioning the association’s integrity.

A US$8 million proposal by UCAZ for funding from the donor community has since been turned down, further paralysing its operations.

The Swedish Embassy in Harare said investigations into financial impropriety at UCAZ were currently underway.

It, however, said in a letter to the Transparency International Zimbabwe that it had been facing problems during the probe but did not elaborate.

“The Embassy has zero tolerance to corruption and is governed by a number of anti corruption policies,” the Swedish Embassy said in a letter dated September 6, 2013.

“All necessary steps have been taken resulting in the embassy and the EU commissioning a forensic audit to ascertain the corruption allegations…the audit process is facing a number of technical hiccups…The Embassy has suspended disbursements to UCAZ pending the outcome of the forensic audit,” said the letter.

Other donors working with UCAZ include City Diplomacy, the Department for International Development and Strengthening Transitional Partnerships and Networks for Enhancing Participatory Local Governance.

Contacted for comment, Duri refused to provide any details saying only, “You have already published the story without asking for my input.”