Home » Governance » Dep Minister, Perm Sec Cross Swords

HIGHER and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Deputy Minister Dr Godfrey Gandawa is accusing Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Dr Washington Mbizvo, of gross corruption and abuse of office, acts which he wants investigated and corrective action taken. Dr Gandawa compiled a dossier on Dr Mbizvo’s alleged misdeeds which he forwarded to then Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development, Dr Olivia Muchena, before she was fired from her ministerial post.

Dr Muchena in turn handed over the dossier to the Civil Service Commission a few days before she was sacked.

Yesterday, Dr Muchena confirmed forwarding the document to the CSC while Dr Mbizvo told The Herald that he was aware of the existence of the gly worded dossier.

Reads the document Dr Gandawa forwarded to CSC by Dr Muchena: “Honourable Minister, I respectfully submit that it is my observation that the Permanent Secretary (Dr Mbizvo) has acted in contravention with the Public Finance Management Act with special reference to Part IX on Financial Misconduct, the Civil Service Commission Regulations, Labour Laws andor further wilfully abused public funds and other resources using his office.”

“I believe that as a senior civil servant and ministry accounting officer, he has failed to provide the needed integrity and exemplary leadership consistent with that high office.

“Instead, I believe that he has grossly abused his authority, office as well as committing acts of financial misconduct which cannot be allowed to go without interrogation.”

Dr Gandawa listed the allegations against Dr Mbizvo which he wants Government to investigate.

He accused Dr Mbizvo of creating illegal structures in the ministry.

“The creation and operation of the Standards Development and Research Unit (SDERU) and the Human Capital Website without approval of the Public Service Commission (now the Civil Service Commission) constituted a flagrant violation of the commission’s regulations.

“Staff were employed illegally to serve under SDERU, siphoning funds from Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund (ZIMDEF) both on salaries, salary top-up allowances and numerous other allowances purported to be for curriculum review, when staff were being paid for work they were employed to do,” said Dr Gandawa.

This, he argued, resulted in wasteful and fruitless expenditure “to the tune of several thousands of dollars”.

Dr Gandawa revealed that 24 employees were engaged by Dr Mbizvo to work in the ministry but were paid by ZIMDEF.

He said this constituted a violation of the Civil Service Regulations which require that all such engagements be sanctioned by the CSC prior to their implementation.

“It is also a disguised practice of engaging into ministry budget overruns financed by the public funds from a state enterprise in contravention with the Public Finance Act.

“The employees gobbled US$194 055.57 in 2013 alone and continue to strain the ZIMDEF budget.

“The Secretary has failed to regularise this,” said Dr Gandawa.

He accuses Dr Mbizvo of failing to make sure that irregular expenses made by the ministry and financed by ZIMDEF are properly identified and streamlined so that the fund stops financing them.

Dr Gandawa said ZIMDEF must focus on its mandate as defined in the Manpower Planning and Development Act.

“However, all this confusion is the Permanent Secretary’s creation, which resulted in the establishment of unusual parallel structures in the ministry yet are being funded by ZIMDEF.”

Dr Gandawa said the ZIMDEF Auditor-General’s report for the 2013 financial year also highlighted some grey areas.

The AG’s report noted: “I was also concerned that the ministry may have incurred expenditure totalling US$1 019 292 outside its budget for year ended December 2013 through Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund.

“The payments were not supported by invoices to confirm that these were expenses chargeable to the fund in terms of the Manpower Planning and Development Act.”

Dr Gandawa contends that the irregular structures “have not only created loopholes for possible fraudulent activities but they have also compromised the basic tenets of corporate governance in the ministry, all these having been hatched and nurtured by (the) Permanent Secretary”.

He also accuses Dr Mbizvo of allowing officials to pay themselves unapproved hefty allowances.

“There was significant misdirection and misappropriation of funds, mainly through sitting allowances for staff members performing their ordinary duties. Special allowances were paid to the civil servants attached to SDERU . . .

“The Ministry of Finance and Economic Development had not approved the sitting allowances in terms of the Public Finance Management Act, Section 78 (1) (r).

“Large amounts of money were handled by SDERU, which had neither a credible internal control system nor a bank account approved by the Ministry of Finance as required by the Public Finance Management Act.

“Hon Minister, it is observed that by failing to ensure strict observance of accounting system within the illegally established SDERU, the Permanent Secretary abdicated his fiduciary duties as provided for in section 42 of the Public Finance Act.”

Added Dr Gandawa: “It is therefore, only logical to suspect that the rates and figures used by SDERU without approval from Ministry of Finance, were manipulated. Given this background, I have g suspicion that SDERU misused US$2 976 598 while HEXCO gobbled US$4 487 370.”

He said on June 29, 2012, Dr Mbizvo unilaterally approved an upward review of Bachelor of Technology allowances with a view to accessing and using US$2 000 000 in the ZIMDEF budget.

Dr Gandawa said this was in violation of the Public Finance Management Act.

He went on to accuse Dr Mbizvo of non acquittal of ZIMDEF funds expended by the ministry.

“On 16 April 2014, the Permanent Secretary returned to ZIMDEF 27 x US$20 Spar Christmas Vouchers, with serial numbers 39723 to 39750, after what he called an “acquittal and reconciliation process”.

Four months after disbursement of cash US$55 080,00 to the Permanent Secretary, only US$540,00 worth of vouchers were returned to ZIMDEF.

Having realised that, in essence this was not an acquittal at all and that the vouchers were of no value to the fund, ZIMDEF returned them to the Permanent Secretary, aising him to follow due procedure,” said Dr Gandawa.

“Over the years the Permanent Secretary, upon declaring himself the de facto ZIMDEF trustee, directed withdrawals of cash running into several millions of dollars without following proper acquittal procedures.

“Evidence shows that the Secretary practiced an unusual way of accounting ZIMDEF funds disbursed directly to his office.

“This was a complete negation of the principle of transparency hence a violation of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, Amendment (No.20), Section 308 (2) which states that — it is the duty of every person who is responsible for the expenditure of public funds to safeguard the funds and ensure that they are spent only on legally authorised purposes and in legally authorised amounts,” said Dr Gandawa.

He gave an example of a transaction approved by Dr Mbizvo on September 18, 2012 directing the release of US$1 627 000 by ZIMDEF for use by National Examinations without first ensuring that there were adequate accounting systems in place in SDERU that should have also included ZIMDEF internal auditors and submission of acquittal to ZIMDEF as the financing agent in the ministry.

“The Permanent Secretary was opposed to that process until our appointment by His Excellency, President R.G. Mugabe as Minister and Deputy Minister, respectively.

“Most of the cash transactions were directly disbursed to his office, from where various transactions were managed by his personal assistant, Ms Bridget Makiwa, without the involvement of the Ministry’s Accounts Department and relevant officials.

“My investigations since coming into office as your deputy Minister, revealed that basic accounting principles were not only flouted, but were seriously manipulated with impunity,” said Dr Gandawa.

Other allegations levelled against Dr Mbizvo by Dr Gandawa include use of public funds from ZIMDEF on Woodlands Farm owned by the Permanent Secretary, extension of scholarships and loans from ZIMDEF by the Secretary without policies, unilateral variation of contracts for staff and salary rationalisation for ZIMCHE staff, mishandling of labour issues costing Government US$8 million, falsifying Cabinet authorities and attempt to bribe the deputy Minister.

“After realising that as the deputy minister I was interrogating systems and challenging a culture of impunity, fraud, corruption and unfair labour practice, among other issues, the Permanent Secretary engineered that a house be bought for me using ZIMDEF funds.

“I refused this and you also concurred with me, otherwise public funds could have been used for wrong purposes in order to compromise my standing in an attempt to buy my silence through corruption,” said Dr Gandawa.

He wants the issues thoroughly investigated.

“I am convinced that a thorough investigation into these allegations will reveal a multi-million dollar fraudulent scheme orchestrated by the Permanent Secretary Dr Washington T Mbizvo.”

Dr Muchena said she forwarded the document to the CSC.

“Ndinenge ndisingadi kutaura nyaya idzi mumanewspaper but I forwarded the deputy minister’s letter to the CSC,” she said.

No immediate comment could be obtained from the CSC yesterday.

Dr Mbizvo said: “I am aware of that thick volume (dossier).

“If you had time, you would come over here and I would give you my analysis of the document.

“It was written by someone who does not appreciate how Government operates.”

On his relations with Dr Gandawa, he said: “We are trying to build a team.

“There was no team.

“There were hidden agendas, ambitions but I think we have gone over it now.”

Source : The Herald