16 April 2018

Zimbabwe: Turmoil Engulfs Nssa

As confusion and speculation over purges at the National Social Security Authority (Nssa) continue, Labour Minister Patronella Kagonye says under-fire general manager Elizabeth Chitiga was on sick leave last week.

This comes amid reports that the alleged ouster of company executives was a precursor for possible charges against ex-chairman Robin Vela over a number of transactions executed under his watch and that nearly $100 million of the compulsory scheme's funds could not be accounted for by one of the institution's investment partners.

"I was at NSSA this morning in a meeting clarifying issues. I am yet to meet with the board, but in the case of Ms Chitiga, what I can say is that I was told she is sick. That is why they have appointed someone to act in her capacity," Kagonye said, adding that she was not aware of "any dismissals" at the cash-rich authority.

While the Goromonzi South legislator insisted that acting board chairperson, Daphine Tomana, was "implementing decisions at NSSA at the moment", she would not be drawn on whether or not there was a full probe into Vela and company.

In the meantime, a crack team of investigators, forensic auditors and officials from the National Economic Conduct Inspectorate was said to have been deployed at the institution, and was "already going through various documents, and other information", sources said.

"Following Vela's sacking by Kagonye last month, we understand Chitiga and her colleagues were sent packing due to an investigation ordered by President Emmerson Mnangagwa into the Command Agriculture funding fiasco and dealings with some local financial intermediaries," they said.

"After having been given millions to look after by NSSA, I gather one particular player has failed to account for the money despite pleading for more time to repay the 'debt' since December last year. This is what has claimed the former chairman's scalp for it is claimed he had unilaterally approved a 'rollover of the debt' without the other board members' knowledge," the sources said.

Chitiga, Vela and officials from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe were not readily available for comment yesterday.

Meanwhile, Mnangagwa is reportedly desperate to distance himself from these scandal-tainted or prone institutions that are also seen as being at the forefront of financing his Lacoste faction.

As analysts say the NSSA affair remains a key test for the Harare administration's seriousness in dealing with corruption, Vela is on record saying that he is innocent and was even vindicated by a recent forensic audit under Patrick Zhuwao.

However, he remains entangled in a damaging sexual harassment row involving NSSA legal counsel and corporate secretary Cynthia Mugwira, charges the wealthy businessman vehemently denies.

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