Net closes in on Chawota

THE Criminal Investigations Department (CID) Fraud Squad is closing in on embattled Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (Caaz) chief executive and general manager David Chawota over allegations of abuse of office and corruption at the aviation industry’s regulator.

Wongai Zhangazha

Police are investigating Chawota over a wide range of issues, including allegations that he facilitated the awarding of a contract for the supply of stationery, diaries, outdoor advertising, graphic designs and printing to a company called LL Promotions (Pvt) Ltd, where he is a director.

Chawota is listed as one of three LL Promotions directors together with a relative.

He is also being accused of awarding several potentially lucrative concessions for coffee shops at the Harare, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls airports to certain companies without going to tender.

According to sources, police yesterday interviewed Chawota at his offices at the Harare International Airport as it also emerged that some of the witnesses employed by Caaz are being victimised for supplying information to the investigators.

“The police visited Chawota yesterday in the morning as they continued their investigations to do with allegations of corruption and abuse of office. They questioned him in his office,” said a source.

The police have also previously interviewed senior Caaz officials and asked them to write statements on the goings-on at the aviation industry regulatory body.
They have also seized documents, as they widened investigations into the matter.

However, some of the people interviewed by police are now alleging victimisation.

“Most of the witnesses are being excluded from important decisions or just being sidelined in daily operations,” said one source.

Staff at Caaz also complained that senior employees asked witnesses to submit copies of reports they had written to the police. Some senior staffers however refused to comply with the directive resulting in tensions between a pro-Chawota group and those supportive of the investigation.

The source said that meetings at Caaz had become tense and people were no longer free to air their views or offer suggestions.

Contacted for a comment on the alleged corruption case, Chawota said: “I don’t have anything to say to you. You have demonised me. You have crucified me. So even if I want to comment it won’t be level-headed. You will always have an opinion. At Caaz, we believe in the sharing of information, but what do I say to you when you already have your information. You are an interested party.”

Chawota was reinstated in September 2015 after being sent on forced leave in July of the same year 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.
Police have so far interviewed a number of people at the trouble state parastatal, including the company’s finance director Joel Masuku, among others.

The CID has so far visited the Registrar of Companies to verify whether Chawota is a director of a company (LL Promotions (Pvt) Ltd) that Caaz entered into contractual arrangements with and the CR14 confirmed that he is actually a director.

Police are still trying to verify other allegations as the probe intensifies.

In January police spokesperson Senior Assistant-Commissioner Charity Charamba confirmed Chawota’s investigations saying: “Yes we have received information from an informer, who however does not understand that we don’t arrest to investigate, but investigate to arrest.”

In a case which could expose blatant conflict of interest, Caaz entered into contractual arrangements with LL Promotions.

Documents seen by this paper show that due to the arrangement, Caaz, in which Chawota is both CEO and general manager, 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 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.

While the alleged corruption has been taking place, Caaz, just like many parastatals, is in a financial mess and is reeling from a US$240 million debt.

Early last year Masuku told parliament that the company was technically insolvent as its liabilities exceeded assets, while a report by the Auditor-General Mildred Chiri said: “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.

“In addition, the authority also incurred a net loss amounting to US$14 881 295 for the year-ended December 31 2013. The accumulated losses rose from US$97 861 030 in 2012 to US$112 742 325 in 2013 representing a 15% increase.”

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