TRANSPORT minister Joram Gumbo, who came into cabinet for the first time last September with a clean record compared to most of his scandal-ridden colleagues, now finds himself in an invidious position after reinstating Civil Aviation Authority Zimbabwe(Caaz) general manager David Chawota – who is facing serious corruption charges – prompting some board members to resign in protest.
By Wongai Zhangazha
This comes as sources said this week Caaz drilled a borehole at a school near Gumbo’s rural home in Mberengwa, although its public relations and communications manager Anna-Julia Hungwe yesterday said the aviation body had only pledged to drill the borehole.
Officials at Caaz said the aviation body did not have an approved social responsibility framework, yet Caaz drilled a borehole near Gumbo’s rural homestead using public funds.
“On February 25, Caaz sent a delegation to minister Gumbo’s birthday celebrations in Mberengwa and financed the drilling of a borehole at Mavorovondo School. We don’t know what criteria was used to approve the drilling of the borehole,” an insider said.
Chawota was sent on forced leave by the Caaz board for alleged abuse of office last July to pave way for investigation. Gumbo, however, reinstated him soon after assuming office, infuriating board members, while also effectively ending an internal probe at the aviation body’s operations.
The Allana Moosa-chaired board resigned in November last year in protest over Chawota’s reinstatement and tacit approval of his alleged corrupt activities.
Gumbo’s predecessor at the Transport ministry, Obert Mpofu, ordered an audit of Caaz operations after Chawota’s suspension, but the investigation is yet to take place and Gumbo seems not interested in probing complaints of corrupt activities there.
Officials said there was now a huge risk that good corporate governance tenents would continue being violated at Caaz given that decisions are being made without board oversight and under a minister who reinstated an official facing a corruption probe.
“A number of programmes are being stalled, for example, there is the issue with the Service Charter developed last year which is a policy rolled out to revamp service delivery at Caaz, but there has been a lot of dilly-dallying on it,” said a Caaz official.
“In addition, there are questions on why a forensic audit ordered by Mpofu has not been carried out. The Caaz board resigned on November 25, 2015 in protest against Chawota’s reinstatement and other things.
“Why is the minister not appointing a board? The Caaz Act says within 30 days of dismissal of a board a new board must be appointed. Why is he not interested in investigating Chawota’s corrupt activites?”
Contacted for comment, Gumbo defended his decision to reinstate Chawota, saying he believed he was innocent even if he has not been cleared of corruption charges.
He also confirmed the body had resigned, but said he was waiting for the president’s office to approve a new one.
“The board resigned last year after I was appointed Minister of Transport. I did not force them out. After they resigned we sent recommendations to the Office of the President last year for approval and we are still waiting for the response. Selection of a board is a process,” he said.
On Chawota, Gumbo said: “As far as I am concerned there is nothing to investigate. I am just seeing and reading a repetition of the same story over and over since last year. If there are issues, let those who are investigating, investigate.”
Despite his reinstatement and the halting of internal investigations, Chawota is being investigated by the Criminal Investigations Department’s Fraud Squad over allegations of abuse of office and corruption.
Detectives are investigating allegations that Chawota 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, in which 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.
Detectives have interrogated Chawota over the case.
The police have also interviewed senior Caaz officials and asked them to write statements on the goings-on at the aviation industry regulatory body. They have seized documents, as part of their investigations into the matter.