SUSPENDED Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) commissioner-general Gershem Pasi is expected to know his fate on several allegations, including corporate governance malpractices, massive corruption, fraud and tax evasion that allegedly prejudiced the revenue collector more than US$20 million soon, businessdigest has learnt.
By Taurai Mangudhla
The goings-on were unearthed in a forensic audit report of September 2016. Although disciplinary proceedings take time, progress had been made on the 11 cases which are undergoing disciplinary processes, with three of them expected to be finalised this week, Zimra chair Willia Bonyongwe has said.
“Hearings by nature are very complicated, even for the simplest of cases because you are dealing with someone’s fate. Our labour laws in Zimbabwe are also crafted to ensure that the rights of the employee are protected. In most cases and in all these disciplinary hearings on Zimra, both sides are represented by lawyers and the proceedings are indeed legal processes,” Bonyongwe said.
“There are procedures to be followed which involve specific time frames, where, for instance, if someone asks for certain information you must provide it within certain days. The receiver has certain days to review and respond and all this takes time. Add to that, the timetables of the legal counsel involved and you have a process which is inherently rather slow,” Bonyongwe said.
“However, I am told that three cases are almost concluding and could be finalised this week, all things remaining equal. We have disciplinary proceedings for all those found culpable in the findings of the audit in accordance with the Zimra code of conduct and the labour laws of Zimbabwe. The outcome will determine the next course of action, including action by the relevant authorities. One of those charged, Allen Saruchera, resigned immediately.
The issue of the US$20 million is one of the charges to the commissioner-general.”
According to the audit report compiled by a local firm HLB Chartered Accountants, Pasi continued working for two years, from 2011 to 2013, after his contract had lapsed, illegally drawing hundreds of thousands of dollars in salaries and allowances.
The report also shows that Zimra executives failed to investigate a whistle-blower’s report on the externalisation and over-invoicing of US$300 million by a local telecoms firm (name supplied) through its foreign sister company.
The audit further shows that some contracts were also cancelled without the State Procurement Board’s approval, which resulted in Zimra losing US$7 million in damages.
The report also revealed the abuse of Zimra’s whistle-blower fund as it emerged that nearly half of the US$3,4 million fees were paid to only three informants believed to have ties to senior management and executives. On issues of corporate governance, Bonyongwe said Zimra has since adopted best practices.
“We have also reviewed our human resources and procurement policies and strengthened our internal control systems,” Bonyongwe said, adding that the authority had terminated the director of loss control’s contract on account of his forged economics degree and reported the case to the police.
Pasi last year challenged his suspension on the grounds that the Zimra board had no authority to suspend him and to charge him. He was also challenging the forensic audit process and that the charges levelled against him under the Zimra code of conduct instead of the national code.
“All these issues were dealt with in the High Court, which ruled that the board could suspend and charge him, and that the forensic audit process was proper. The judge also ruled that he should be charged under the Zimra code of conduct. So now the hearing is underway and is progressing well,” Bonyongwe said.