Zimbabwe: Bigwigs' Grand Looting Exposed

Photo: The Herald
Former Zimbabwe Tourism Authority CEO Karikoga Kaseke (file photo).

A government agency was used to siphon thousands of dollars to finance weddings and political rallies during former president Robert Mugabe's reign, an audit has revealed.

Auditor-General Mildred Shiri exposed the rot at the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA), which she said happened between 2015 and 2016, in her latest audit report detailing abuse of funds and inefficiencies at state institutions.

ZTA made numerous "donations" as well as unauthorised contributions to political rallies believed to be for the ruling Zanu PF.

In 2014 ZTA "donated" $50 000 at weddings, 10 tonnes of maize seed and 50 Singer sewing machines.

Some expenditure is only categorised as "constituency rally sponsorship".

During the period under review, former ZTA chief executive Karikoga Kaseke's wife Betty, a former model, campaigned and secured a parliamentary seat as legislator for Kuwadzana on a Zanu PF ticket.

In the report, Chiri also makes note of an undisclosed amount referenced as a donation to an unnamed High Court judge.

In 2015 the authority spent some $4 000 on cellphone bills under the line item "ministry-related expenses".

"The authority also spent $35 868 in 2013, $154 174 in 2014 and $189 880 in 2015 that was not budgeted for on ministry-related expenses.

"The expenditure is related to repair of (Tourism) ministry vehicles, fuel and traveling costs of ministry officials."

Another $10 000 was spent on office furniture, but categorised as social responsibility.

The then Tourism deputy minister Anastasia Ndlovu also received $5 000 in holiday expenses.

A trip to Berlin, Germany, gobbled some $8 000 in travelling and subsistence expenses which was not budgeted for.

Several motor vehicles, including a Mercedes Benz S600 valued at $13 333 and a Mercedes Benz S350 with a carrying amount of $134 000, were acquired by the authority but were registered in the names of third parties.

The audit report also notes that the ZTA board led lavish lifestyles and awarded themselves outrageous fees and perks without ministerial authority.

This was all despite the authority's poor financial capacity.

In 2015 the authority incurred a deficit of $796 000 from $969 000 in the previous year.

As a result, ZTA's current liabilities exceeded its current assets by $2,3 million indicating a material risk to the authority's ability to continue operating as a going concern.

For instance, executive directors awarded themselves a monthly fuel allocation of $2 000.

That is equivalent to 1 316 litres of fuel per month, which is enough to cover an average of 13 158km.

An interest-free loan of $20 000 was advanced to one of the board members without the minister's approval, compromising the oversight role of the board.

The loan was repaid over three years.

"There were expenses incurred in 2013, 2014 and 2015 financial years,which did not appear to be in line with the authoririty's business and they were also not budgeted for," reads part of the report.

Meanwhile, Kaseke spent his 13-year stay at the institution without a valid contract of employment.

The audit report says Kaseke's employment was only effected by a letter from the chief secretary to Cabinet Misheck Sibanda when he was reassigned from the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe in 2006.

No other contract was entered into between Kaseke and the authority, posing a risk to the ZTA as there was no basis for legal recourse in case of disputes.

"There was no contract of employment for the chief executive. The reference point of the conditions of service for the chief executive was his contract of employment with his previous employer," reads the report.

Throughout his "tenure", Kaseke, a confrontational figure who was known for berating his staff in public, went on to become the face of the country's tourism sector which served as a feeding trough for high-ranking officials.

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