Zimbabwe: Sparks Fly Over Nssa Scandal

Former National Social Security Authority (NSSA) board chairman Robin Vela says he will challenge the damning forensic audit report in court claiming that it was part of a witch-hunt.

The report that was finally tabled in Parliament on Friday places Vela, Tourism minister Priscah Mupfumira and Metbank at the centre of alleged massive corruption that prejudiced NSSA of millions of dollars.

Vela claimed the audit report by BDO Zimbabwe Chartered Accountants on behalf of the auditor general Mildred Chiri was biased.

He said NSSA board minutes and communication between board members showing that some of the flagged deals were above board was ignored by the auditors.

"We are launching a formal court challenge to declare the report grossly delinquent, biased, incomplete and targeted," Vela said.

Metbank through its lawyers has also disputed the audit findings alleging 'bias and malice."

The lawyers claimed the auditors ignored submissions by Metbank and vowed to take the audit for review at the courts.

Auditors suspect NSSA lost nearly US$190million after Mupfimira allegedly approved questionable deals especially with Metbank.

It alleged that Mupfumira influenced NSSA to advance loans to Metbank against advice.

However, the audit report says Metbank started dealing with NSSA in 2011, years before Mupfumira was appointed to the portfolio.

Mupfimira allegedly used her position as Public Service minister to force the authority to deal with Metbank.

The findings contained in the 122 page audit report formed part of the charge sheet against Mupfumira, who was arrested on July 25 on allegations of abuse of office, corruption and fraud amounting to $95 million.

"NSSA has money markets investments with Metbank dating back to 2011.

"For money market investments, NSSA deals directly with the bank.

"The money market investments include treasury bills custodial agreements, treasury bills lending and loan advances," reads part of the report.

It added that when Mupfumira was appointed Public Service minister she pushed NSSA to advance loans to Metbank under the pretext that it was promoting indigenious businesses.

The minister allegedly said the projects by Metbank were in line with Zimasset, an economic blue print formulated by Zanu PF during the last days of former

president Robert Mugabe's rule.

NSSA was also allegedly forced to fund command agriculture through the procurement of fertiliser by Metbank without the involvement of the authority's board.

"There was no evidence to suggest that the NSSA board was aware of the on-goings regarding the treasury bills tendered for the fertiliser transactions," the

report says.

"This is evidenced by their non-action in recalling the TBs from Metbank in 2018 when the new minister Petronella Kagonye wanted to know the state of affairs

of all transactions between NSSA and Metbank."

Auditors alleged that Vela had pressured management to release the TBs to Metbank.

NSSA, according to the report, was involved in housing projects with Metbank, which were not approved by the authority's board.

The auditors alleged that off-take housing contracts were awarded to undeserving companies and NSSA could lose at least US$104 million.

"It is pertinent to note the following; there was no competitive bidding, which was done before awarding the contracts thereby exposing NSSA to overcharging,"

the report says.

" None of the projects has progressed as per time frames, which are in the contracts."

A housing project in Chinhoyi being undertaken by Metro Reality, a company linked to Metbank has stalled due to litigation between NSSA and the bank over the

use of treasury bills.

"When NSSA discovered that it's TBs worth USD$37 350 000 had been used by Metbank without getting appropriate authority, they took the matter to court," the

auditors said.

"The other TBs with a face value of USD$24.9 million, which had not been used by Metbank, were returned into NSSA custody.

"Metbank then advised NSSA that henceforth it was freezing all transactions with NSSA until the issue of the USD$37 500 000 TBs has been settled by the

courts."

The auditors said a housing project by Housing Corporation Zimbabwe (HCZ), a company linked to businessman Adam Molai in Caledonia was not being rolled out in

line with the contract with NSSA.

The report claimed that HCZ was one week old when the deal was consummated and again cited Vela as a central player in the deal.

The USD$300 million project was stopped when Kagonye took over as minister and this sparked a legal battle.

NSSA lost the case at the High Court and was ordered to pay HCZ $30 million for breach of contract.

The report stated that all off take housing agreements were supposed to be subjected to tender processes but the NSSA board treated them as investments and

negotiations in the best interests of the authority were supposed to be done.

The report also raises human resources issues as it alleged that the former NSSA CEO Elizabeth Chitiga was hired despite the fact that he was placed third by

an interviewing panel.

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