Govt loses US$700 000 through fake payments

THE Labour Court has ordered the Civil Service Commission (CSC) to reinstate a senior Finance ministry official who was dismissed for allegedly authorising fake payments to the tune of US$700 000.

By Hazel Ndebele

Government was in the process prejudiced US$729 345 through fraudulent payments.

Former deputy accountant-general for the Aid Accounting Funds and Parastatals (AAFP) Section John Masiyanise was fired from his post on May 9 2016 after being accused of being negligent and failing to take reasonable care of public funds.

Masiyanise’s dismissal from his post followed allegations against a group of Treasury workers who were accused of manufacturing and submitting to the Accountant-General’s Office fake invoices for payment of defunct companies such as Nico Orgo (Pvt) Limited and Pioneer Hibred (Pvt) Limited. It had been said that the companies had supplied agricultural inputs to government.

As a result, government released US$729 345 between December 2014 and January 2015 and the suspects allegedly shared the money. The accused ministry officials currently out on bail included former senior economist Varaidzo Chirahwi, accountant Jacob Mlambo, deputy director external finance Stanley Zharare as well as acting director finance and capital markets Mary Takavarasha.

On February 10, the labour court granted Masiyanise’s appeal which he made in June 2016 before he had any legal representation.

Masiyanise, a member of the Public Service Association (PSA), was later represented by the association’s lawyers Wintertons legal practitioners. PSA is an umbrella body/federation of different affiliate associations that represent civil servants in Zimbabwe.

In his appeal, Masiyanise stated that it was not his responsibility to verify the authenticity of invoices presented to him for payment.

In the appeal it was also argued that Masiyanise was not the one who approved the fake payments which prejudiced government of US$729 345.

According to the court judgement number LC/H/73/2017 the CSC disciplinary committee convicted Masiyanise of two charges, namely that of being negligent and improper performance of duties as well as failure to take reasonable care of public funds.

Masiyanise’s appeal which was granted by the court read: “The disciplinary committee erred by failing to take into account the fact that the documents in question (the fake payments) had been authorised by Mr Kunaka and Mrs Takavarasha and bore their genuine signatures.”

“The disciplinary committee erred in finding that the appellant authorised payment without checking the adequacy and authenticity of the documents. By so doing, the CSC’s disciplinary committee failed to take into account the fact that he processed payment requests that had already been approved or authorised,” the appeal said.

Masiyanise also argued that CSC made a mistake in concluding that he failed to enforce or put in place internal controls to combat fraud as it was the duty of the Accountant-General in terms of the Public Finance Management Act.

Masiyanise was only employed as deputy accountant-general for the AAFP.

“The disciplinary committee misdirected itself by relying on the job description for the deputy account-general responsible for the government accounting services section which is materially different from the AAFP section which appellant was employed in,” reads the appeal.

The court has since directed the CSC to reinstate Masiyanise without loss of salary and benefits.

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