21 February 2014

Zimbabwe: NSSA Embroiled in U.S $50 Million Hotel Scam

The National Social Security Authority (NSSA) has become the latest public entity to be rocked by allegations of graft, after it emerged Friday that the authority is embroiled in a $50 million dollar scam.

Reports said the cost of a hotel built by NSSA in the border town of Beitbridge grew from $17m to $50m, in suspicious circumstances. The Herald said NSSA, which was awarded the $17m tender to build Rainbow Beitbridge Hotel on the basis that it had the money to finance the project, ended up using pensioners' funds to hire a construction firm.

The development comes at a time when NSSA officials were due to appear before the parliamentary portfolio committee on public accounts next Monday to answer questions on other issues. But committee member Paurina Mpariwa told SW Radio Africa that the latest scam will be 'top of the agenda.'

'We have a number of issues to ask on Monday but after reading this latest story we have agreed that the issues it raises will be top of the agenda,' said Mpariwa.

She added: 'We want them to explain how the cost rose from $17m to $50m and how the lost monies will be recovered.'

But according to the report, NSSA General Manager James Matiza has said the contractor, Costain Zimbabwe, did a 'shoddy job' on the project forcing NSSA to contract another firm to correct things. All these setbacks led to further costs, claimed Matiza, who also said Costain was forced on them by the government because they submitted a low bid which in NSSA's view was not consistent with the true cost of the project.

Beitbridge Town Council could also close the hotel because NSSA has failed to regularize documentation after an architect withdrew the designs over outstanding fees due to him.

Moreover NSSA cannot get a certificate of occupation for the hotel because the overseer of the project, hired by NSSA, cannot sign for it as she is an unregistered engineer. A temporary three month certificate issued by the Beitbridge Town Council expires this month.

NSSA is also reported to have issued itself with a completion certificate which certified that the hotel was ready for use. This is against procedure as the normal practice is that an architect should issue the certificate.

According to the Herald NSSA investment director Shadreck Vera sits on the Rainbow Tourism Group as a NSSA nominee, when at the same time the hotel group is paying the social security authority $14, 000 in monthly rentals for the lease of the property, something which raises conflict of interest issues.

These details come at a time when various public entities are under the spotlight due to all kinds of scams including 'corrupt salaries' awarded to the top executives.


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