DETAILS of more irregularities over National Social Security Authority (Nssa’s) recently completed Beitbridge Hotel project have emerged amid indications the institution reportedly made unprocedural payments to contracted companies despite shoddy or lack of delivery.
By Herbert Moyo/Taurai Mangudla
Well-placed sources within Nssa told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that the authority, which has already lost close to US$40 million in hotel construction costs, sunk further amounts totalling over US$1 million to Lithenham Investments and Drawcard Investments.
“One of the scandals involves paying US$900 000 to Drawcard just to move rock debris a mere kilometre from the construction site,” said one source, adding, “but the salacious part is that the same company had been initially awarded the tender to blast the rock at the construction site. How do you explain paying more just to move rubble than the actual work of blasting the bedrock?”
The sources also queried the US$40 000 payment advanced to Lithenham Investments when the company failed to discharge its contractual obligation to provide shower screens for the hotel which is being leased by the Rainbow Tourism Group.
“Lithenham Investments literally cashed in on doing nothing as they only provided a shower screen sample which was condemned by the architect (Daniel) Mandishona. Consequently, they did not proceed to deliver the product but they were fully paid all the same,” said a source.
Nssa has a long history of making bad investment decisions, throwing millions of contributors’ and pensioners’ funds down the drain while the supposed beneficiaries wallow in abject poverty. Pensioners get meagre monthly payments of as little as US$40.
A 2011 investigation conducted by the National Economic Conduct Inspectorate investigation exposed how millions were sunk into non-performing banks and listed companies while senior staff helped themselves to huge loans at the institution, among other irregularities.
“The Beitbridge Hotel saga shows that the board and management have not changed their ways as they continue to make poor investment decisions, some of which border on corruption,” said another source.
Nssa has lost millions in bad investment in the banking sector, with about US$50 million currently at risk at the failing Capital Bank. Apart from the fact that Nssa has lost so much money by hiring a construction firm, Costain, which could not even manage the work it was doing, the social security company is set to sink more contributors’ funds should it lose a case currently before arbitration in which Mandishona is seeking payment for outstanding fees for his architectural designs.
Mandishona refused to disclose how much he is owed by Nssa which also owes US$15 000 to David Chinyama, a National Arts Merit Award winning visual artist who did mosaic artwork at the hotel. At current rates of US$145 000 monthly rentals being paid by RTG, it would take Nssa about 29 years to recoup its US$50 million investment on the hotel.
NSSA general manager James Matiza admitted there were irregularities, but said the authority was employing measures to remedy the situation.
He said Lithanham Investments was paid US$31 824 in advance for materials and to cover the contractor’s deposit, but the shower screens were condemned by DMA Architects. The authority, Matiza said, is now in the process of recovering the funds with an auction of the materials expected to bring US$15 000.
“The rest of the money will be recovered from the architect as part of the counter claim that is being prepared in view of the current arbitration. The paper work has already been issued to Nssa lawyers,” Matiza said in a written response yesterday.
Matiza also confirmed that Drawcard was paid US$202 457 for blasting rock and it will receive a further US$720 000 for moving the debris to a dumpsite that is located at Malala 10km away, along the Beitbridge-Bulawayo high way.
He said Nssa had set up an independent audit because they felt Drawcard’s initial claim for US$900 000 was too high.