The Herald (Harare)

29 January 2014

Zimbabwe: How Airzim Millions Were Looted

Photo: Uwe Schwarzbach
An Air Zimbabwe Plane.

Revelations that around US$10 million was looted from Air Zimbabwe by senior management there and Navistar Insurance Brokers have opened the lid on the poor state of public administration and opacity in State-linked enterprises.The report by BCA Forensic Audit Services, signed December 28, 2013 highlights how a few senior individuals -- because of inadequate oversight structures, sheer greed on the part of managers, and sub-standard transparency mechanisms -- can bring an entire parastatal to its knees.

BCA says Airzim suffered actual prejudice of 5 895 695,49 and US$1 298 827,88 and potential prejudice of US$1 862 370,52 in about four years from the aviation insurance scam.

Tellingly, the forensic auditors say, "The findings presented in this report relate to one aspect of the operations of Air Zimbabwe (that is the aviation insurance). The forensic audit exercise covers other business cycles other than the aviation insurance and there are indications that the airline suffered material financial prejudice as a result of fraudulent transactions perpetrated in other business cycles."

This means Airzim has likely suffered far bigger losses than those revealed through the forensic audit of its aviation insurance. Several individuals have been implicated in the alleged looting, and both BCA and board members of Navistar have recommended criminal proceedings be instituted on the basis of the audit report.

Mrs Grace Pfumbidzayi

Airzim's legal manager and company secretary since November 2007 is at the centre of the storm.

BCA says, "She played a pivotal role in facilitating that the airline paid inflated amounts to Navistar resulting in the airline being prejudiced of an amount of 4 461 672,67 euros...

"She authorised all the invoices from Navistar Insurance Brokers for the period 2009 to 2013 for payment without ensuring that the amounts charged by Navistar were consistent with the amounts specified in the insurance contracts from the international broker."

Further, she allegedly appointed Navistar as Airzim's brokers without going to tender.

"She was grossly negligent as she did not ensure that there was a written service legal agreement between Air Zimbabwe and Navistar Insurance Brokers."

BCA adds that Mrs Pfumbidzayi authorised payment of US$360 448,68 to Navistar for insurance of two A320 Airbus craft when those planes were already insured elsewhere.

The auditors go on to list several other opaque transactions amounting to hundreds of thousands of US dollars authorised by Mrs Pfumbidzayi.

Mr Innocent Mavhunga

The Airzim acting group CEO features prominently in the audit report.

In a March 20, 2013 letter to board chairperson Mr Ozias Bvute, Mr Mavhunga said, "If no payment is made (to Navistar) the airline's aviation insurance certificates will not be renewed".

But the auditors found that at the time the letter was written, Airzim did not owe any of the insurance premiums that he was referring to.

Mr Mavhunga told the board "Please be advised that an amount of US$800 000 is still outstanding for the April 2012 to March 2013 fourth quarter insurance premium that was due on December 31, 2012".

BCA says, "Therefore, Air Zimbabwe suffered a potential financial prejudice of US$800 000 as a result of Mr I Mavhunga's actions."

Dr Peter Chikumba

The former Airzim group CEO is accused of failing to ensure that there was a legal service agreement with Navistar.

Further, he went ahead with Navistar's appointment as brokers without going to tender.

"He should be held accountable for the financial prejudice suffered by the airline as a result of the fraudulent transactions perpetrated during the time he was in charge of the operations of the airline.

"He denies that he approved Navistar's terms, instead he represented that he instructed Mrs Grace Pfumbidzayi to write to Navistar advising that the airline was not approving the terms as they were fraudulent."

Interestingly, all e-mail communications that could shed light on the matter could not be found.

Mrs Pfumbidzayi says her laptop was stolen while Dr Chikumba left Airzim with this laptop.

Mr I Moyo, who is e-Business Manager at Airzim, told BCA: "Air Zimbabwe e-mails were set in such a way that no copy is retained by the server of the emails that are received by individuals."

Mr Nicholas Mujere

Airzim's acting general manager (finance) was "grossly negligent with a possibility of being an accomplice when he authorised some of the invoices from Navistar Insurance Brokers for the period 2009 to 2013 for payment without ensuring that the amounts charged by Navistar were as specified in the insurance contracts from the international broker".

BCA lists the dodgy transactions that he was party to, which amount to 5 473 390 euros.

Other managers

Ms Patience Tichagwa, (finance and administration manager at Aircraft and Maintenance Centre) is accused of authorising payments running into millions of dollars to Navistar.

Mr Norbert Machingauta (strategy and economics manager since 2009) is also accused of authorising the mega payments to Navistar.

The same allegation is made against Mr Oswell Matore (general manager- finance and corporate services), as it is also made against Mrs Lilian Chigodora (treasury accountant), Mr Oswaald Madziwa (general manager- human resources), Mr Moses Mapanda (general manager-Airzim Passenger Company), and Mr Godknows Maravanyika (human resources manager).

BCA recommends that Airzim "institute proceedings against Navistar aimed at recovering amounts lost as a result of fraudulent transactions".

Recommendations

BCA's recommendations to Airzim board chair Mr Bvute include some fairly tough measures.

For starters, "Air Zimbabwe should institute proceedings against Navistar aimed at recovering amounts lost as a result of fraudulent transactions as fully discussed in this report."

Secondly, the airline must make a police report in regards to the actions of Mrs Pfumbidzayi, Mr Mavhunga, Mr Mujere, Mr Machingauta, Ms Tichagwa, Mr Matore and Mr Madziwa (all of Airzim); as well as Mr Givemore Nderere (Navistar managing director), Mr Vukile Hlupo (Navistar director) and Mr Orton Mawire (Navistar finance director and company secretary).

Thirdly, the Airzim board could pass the forensic audit report on to the Insurance Commissioner to take appropriate action against the firm implicated in the scam.

Further, BCA says implicated individuals should be specified in terms of the Prevention of Corruption Act (Chapter 9:16).

This will help the State identify what assets implicated individuals have recently purchased and how to recover these, and ensure more information is made available on the goings-on at Airzim.

BCA recommends specification of Mrs Pfumbidzayi, Mr Mavhunga, Mr Ndere, Mr Hlupo, Mr Mawire, Navistar Insurance Brokers (Pvt) Ltd, Steik Enterprises (Pvt) Ltd and Natflo (Pvt) Ltd.

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