PARLIAMENT has given Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister Sekai Nzenza an ultimatum to release the latest external forensic audit report on the National Social Security Authority (Nssa), which reportedly implicates senior government officials including serving and former cabinet ministers in a US$82 million looting scandal.
BY ANDREW KUNAMBURA
Nssa is a publicly run pension fund under the stewardship of the Public Service ministry, with an estimated asset portfolio of US$1,3 billion.
Auditor-General Mildred Chiri handed over the report to Nzenza in March, but she is yet to table it before parliament as is required by law.
The Auditor-General hands over audit reports on parastatals and state enterprises to relevant ministers for onward submission to parliament.
The chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Masvingo proportional representation legislator Emma Ncube-Huni, said the committee met on Tuesday to deliberate on the issue and resolved to give Nzenza until Monday to hand over the report.
Ncube-Huni said, in an interview on Wednesday, her committee was keen to have the document and interrogate the findings.
“We have not received that report and we are very worried. We met as a committee yesterday (Tuesday) and decided that we needed to follow up with the minister over the issue and that’s what we are going to do. We have already informed her that we need the report by Monday next week. So we will be meeting again on Monday next week and we hope by then the minister would have released the report,” she said.
Chiri also confirmed that she handed over the report to Nzenza, but said she was not responsible for making it public.
“The Nssa forensic audit report is now with the minister. When she tables it in parliament, then it will be available to the public,” she said.
Although Chiri refused to disclose the contents of the report, a source privy to the dossier described it as “explosive”.
“This is an explosive report if you may lay your hands on it. It exposes some senior government officials as well as current and former ministers (names supplied) who benefitted from loans from Nssa funds and had farming inputs.
The money was being channelled through a local bank through which the loans would be issued. Many ministers benefitted from this scheme. This audit recommended that people be brought to account,” the source said.
Sources said the auditors discovered that the pension fund could have poured millions of dollars into risky investments.
“In one case, it was discovered that Nssa had released about US$82 million in Treasury Bills in on-lending lifelines which benefitted a senior official at the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, a former minister and a construction firm linked to an executive at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ),” a source said.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) is also pressing Nzenza to release the report.
“We have been instrumental in pushing for that forensic audit on Nssa and we are demanding to lay our hands on it as a key stakeholder,” ZCTU secretary-general Japhet Moyo said.
But Nzenza denied she was holding on to the report, saying she had examined it with the help of the Nssa board and will make it public once she gets legal advice.
“I can confirm that we received the forensic audit report from Nssa and have deliberated on it with the board. We noted four issues to do with corporate governance, human resources, investment and ICT which need to be addressed.
Based on those deliberations, the board has taken it to lawyers and, when I get enough legal advice, I will take it forward. So I am not protecting anyone,” she said.
This audit report is not the first that has exposed the rot at Nssa. The authority has over the years been embroiled in scandals exposed by external audits but government has failed to stop the looting of public coffers.
In an audit report by Deloitte Advisory Services for the period August 1, 2013 to June 30, 2015, Nssa incurred US$10,3 million in tax interest and penalties on payroll related items at a time executives awarded themselves hefty salaries and benefits prejudicing thousands of pensioners in the process.
Nssa executives awarded themselves salaries of up to US$30 000 and housing loans of up to US$2 million. However, a review done by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) in April 2014 revealed that Nssa had failed to pay tax for the benefits resulting in the tax body effecting a garnish order, which saw US$7 665 258 being seized from Nssa’s accounts.
Nssa has been at the centre of poor corporate governance and gross corruption which has resulted in the sacking of board members and senior management over the years.