RECENTLY reinstated Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (Caaz) chief executive officer and general manager, David Chawota, is reportedly caught up in a series of fresh scandals involving conflict of interest, cronyism and tender irregularities in contravention of good corporate governance practices, the Zimbabwe Independent has learnt.
The dust has barely settled on Chawota who was only reinstated on September 28 after being sent on forced leave in July to facilitate investigations into alleged poor corporate governance matters at the parastatal, which is in charge of all airports in the country, aircraft parking, ground handling, fuelling, security and airside shuttle buses.
Government sources this week told this paper that Chawota is now embroiled in fresh controversy including the unprocedural awarding of several potentially lucrative concessions for coffee shops at the Harare, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls airports to certain companies without going to tender.
“Several companies have been awarded restaurant concessions without going to tender. Of particular interest is the case of the company Café Espresso which got the most visible and potentially profitable areas to do business under shady circumstances,” a senior Caaz official said this week. “Café Espresso alone has three concessions at the Harare Airport, one at Bulawayo, and the company is said to have been promised two more concessions at the Victoria Falls new terminal currently due for completion next month.”
Besides Café Espresso, other catering companies or restaurants and bars operating or which operated at local airports included Round Bar, Corner Cafe, Viewing Canopy, Airside, Starbrooke, Coffee Shop and Catercraft.
Documents seen by the Independent show that on November 10 2015, Chawota renewed the parking concession at the Harare International Airport for Carsafe, trading as Zentland Investments, for another five-year period without going to tender. Caaz sources said Chawota renewed the concession without going to tender and also without the knowledge and approval of the Caaz board.
“Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe concurs that Carsafe be granted another term whose tenure shall be five years and conditions of which shall be agreed to and concluded before the lapse of the current concession agreement … on 31 December 2015,” reads part of a letter to Carsafe signed by Chawota.
In another case which exposes a blatant conflict of interest, Caaz entered into contractual arrangements with a company called LL Promotions Pvt Ltd, in which Chawota is listed as one of the directors.
Documents seen by this paper show that due to this arrangement Caaz, in which Chawota is both CEO and general manager, has made a series of payments to LL Promotions, including one for US$9 559 on January 12 2015, for the supply of stationery, diaries, outdoor advertising, graphic designs and printing.
Other payments made out to LL Promotions include US$9 859 on January 21 2015, US$13 582,50 on November 27 2012 and another US$4 579,88 on December 1 2011.
Chawota is listed as one of three LL Promotions directors and his address is given as 1022 3rd Avenue, Parktown, in the Waterfalls suburb of Harare.
Langton Chawota, apparently a relative of David Chawota who lives in Waterfalls as well, is also a director in the company.
Barely a fortnight after being appointed Transport minister Jorum Gumbo re-instated Chawota and several other senior managers who had been relieved of their duties, arguing that their dismissals and suspensions had been carried out without the ministry’s approval and were in fact contributing to serious corporate governance shortcomings at Caaz.
“Following consultations in government, the board is hereby instructed to recall the substantive general manager of Caaz Mr David Chawota with immediate effect, withdraw the letters sending him on forced leave and subsequent dismissal,” reads part of Gumbo’s letter which also instructed the Caaz board to issue Chawota with a new four-year contract.
Chawota was first appointed Caaz CEO and general manager in 2004, five years after it was founded.
Earlier this year, Caaz director Joel Masuku told parliament that the company was technically insolvent as its liabilities exceeded assets. It is struggling to retire a US$240 million debt. According to the last report by the Auditor-General Mildred Chiri, Caaz was in a financial mess just like most public enterprises.
“An analysis of the financial statements for the year-ended December 31 2013 revealed that Caaz’s current liabilities exceed current assets by US$155 669 420,” said Chiri.
Caaz had domestic and foreign loans amounting to US$242 million, which were not being serviced despite being overdue, she said.
“In addition, the authority also incurred a net loss amounting to US$14 881 295 for the year-ended December 31 2013. The accumulated loses rose from US$97 861 030 in 2012 to US$112 742 325 in 2013 representing a 15% increase,” Chiri said.
The Office of the President and Cabinet is working on a new code of ethics to deal with public sector mismanagement and corruption. A Public Sector Corporate Governance Bill is also in the pipeline.
Chawota did not answer calls or respond to messages sent to his mobile phone. Questions sent via e-mail this week were unanswered at the time of writing. However, yesterday after repeated calls and messages he then later said he was at a funeral.