DETECTIVES from the police’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Fraud Squad have opened a probe into two Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara) senior managers over allegations of corruption involving US$500 000.
BY ANDREW KUNAMBURA
The senior officials are accused of surreptitiously keeping the money in a foreign currency account with the CBZ before moving it to another bank when the road authority’s acting chief executive officer Mathlene Mujokoro demanded she be made a signatory to the account.
Zinara finance director Simon Taranhike and director for human resources and administration Precious Murove opened the two foreign currency accounts, to which they are the only signatories, in November last year when the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe directed banks to separate forex accounts from Real-Time Gross Settlement accounts.
Both Zinara board chairman Mike Madanha and national police spokesperson Paul Nyathi confirmed the ongoing investigation.
Taranhike and Murove are also among some of the Zinara managers who were in October last year placed under formal police investigation after a forensic audit implicated them in a massive corruption scandal in which they are suspected of systematically creaming off the parastatal over several years through questionable dealings.
Sources close to developments said the latest scandal came to light when Zinara failed to pay an ICT service provider US$500 000 late last month.
The sources said Taranhike reportedly demanded that the service provider first pay off his outstanding mortgage as a way of inducing payment from Zinara. The company refused to budge to his demands and responded by switching Zinara off its systems as a retaliatory measure.
Mujokoro then took it upon herself to visit the bank and to personally effect the payment, only to get the shock of her life when she was told by the bank that she was not a signatory to the account.
“This happened late last month. Taranhike and Murove are the only signatories to the CBZ foreign currency account. The CEO is not a signatory to that account. So Zinara was supposed to pay the service provider US$500 000 for services but Taranhike asked the company to pay off his mortgage before he could release the money which the parastatal owed. The company’s management refused to do so and went on to switch Zinara off its systems because of that stalemate,” a source said.
“So when the CEO enquired with the bank, that’s when she was told she is not a signatory to the account. She then confronted Taranhike and demanded to be a signatory to the CBZ account. Taranhike and Murove, then acted swiftly and moved some of the money from the CBZ account to an NMB bank foreign currency account which again the CEO is not a signatory to. The movement of the money took place just about the same time when the Zinara IT system was down.”
Taranhike confirmed the issues in an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent this week, but said allegations against him were being peddled by rivals eyeing the substantive position of Zinara CEO.
He also confirmed that Mujokoro was not a signatory to the two bank accounts and that he had some of the money moved from the CBZ to the NMB account.
He said he was questioned by police detectives over the issues.
“That information is coming from very desperate people who want to block me from taking over as Zinara CEO. As you know, the board is in the process of recruiting a CEO and there is fighting over the post. So they want to escalate the situation,” he said. “Mujokoro is not a signatory to the accounts because when they were created, she was not in mainstream management, but we have now started the process of integrating her. Remember these are new accounts.”
However, further checks indicated that, on the contrary, Mujokoro — whose substantive position at the cash-rich parastatal is that of company secretary — was already three months into the acting CEO capacity when the RBZ gave the directive to separate RTGS from foreign currency accounts in October last year.
Mujokoro was appointed acting Zinara CEO in July 2018.
Asked why he had hastily moved money from the CBZ account, Taranhike said: “We were investigating transit deposits after realising that our ledger balances were different from the actual balances in the accounts and that is why we ended up moving the money because we didn’t know if the affected account was the CBZ one or the NMB one.”
When pressed to explain how the investigation necessitated movement of the money, Taranhike exploded, saying: “You can go on and write what you want. I have been persecuted for so long by the newspapers, I don’t care anymore and, in any case, the issue is under a special investigation which the CID is completing now.”
His alleged accomplice, Murove, refused to comment.
“I cannot comment on those issues. Ask the CEO who is the accounting officer or the board chair,” he said.
Madanha said: “I have also made inquiries on this issue. It is already under police investigation, you may therefore need to check with the police on how far they have gone with those investigations.”
National police spokesman Paul Nyathi confirmed the developments, but declined to give details.
“There are many cases relating to Zinara which are in court now, while others are pending. So I would not want to give details of those cases because it would be sub judice for police to do so,” Nyathi said.
A recently released audit report exposed massive financial abuse where US$142 million was paid to illegally hired road maintenance contractors.
The audit, by Grant Thornton, covered the period between 2011 and 2016 when Zinara was being led by former CEO Frank Chitukutuku.