BY ANDREW KUNAMBURA
ZIMBABWE National Parks Authority (ZimParks) board member Charles Mutisi has been implicated by the Auditor-General in a conflict of interest case after he failed to declare his interests in a safari company in the Zambezi escarpment.
Environment, Tourism and Hospitality minister Prisca Mupfumira appointed Mutisi to the ZimParks board on October 31 last year, four months after the company at the centre of the storm, Head Rest Crescent (Pvt) Ltd, entered into a lease agreement with the parks authority for the use of a property in Morongora Safari Area in the Zambezi Escarpment.
Before he became a ZimParks board member, Mutisi served on the National Social Security Authority (Nssa) board between 2014 and 2017 when Mupfumira was Labour and Social Welfare minister responsible for the publicly-run pension fund.
Mutisi’s failure to declare interests in the company was noted in an audit conducted on the parastatal by Auditor-General Mildred Chiri in May this year.
The audit was conducted outside Chiri’s usual report on government accounts, state enterprises and local authorities.
In the audit report, accessed exclusively by the Zimbabwe Independent this week, Chiri says the failure by Mutisi to declare his interests in the company was in violation of the Public Accounts Corporate Governance Act. Chiri further noted in the report that this was giving rise to the risk of conflict of interest, which may compromise the execution of assignments.
And true to Chiri’s fears, Mutisi’s company had accumulated lease arrears amounting to US$34 000 as at December 31, 2018.
“The Public Accounts Corporate Governance Act (Chapter 10:31) Section 34 states that when a board member of a public entity owns any property or has a right in property or a direct or indirect pecuniary interest in a company which results in his or her private interests coming or appearing to come into conflict with his or her functions as a board member, the board member shall forthwith disclose that to the entity’s board.”
“However, one of the board members and director of a company named Head Rest Crescent (Pvt) Ltd entered into a lease contract with the authority on June 5, 2018, for the lease of a site located in Marongora Safari and I was not availed with his declaration of interest upon assumption of office as a board member in October 2018. The lessee had an outstanding fees of US$34 620 as at December 31, 2018.”
The ZimParks board is chaired by retired High Court judge Justice Moses Chinhengo, who confirmed in an interview with the Independent this week that Mutisi had not declared his interests.
“There is one outstanding case of a board member who has not declared his interests. What happens is that after you have been nominated to sit on the board, you are subjected to a security vetting by the government agents and right now all the other seven have been cleared and confirmed as board members for four years while his case is still to be finalised,” Chinhengo said.
Other members are University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Ashton Murwira, former CBZ Holdings chief executive officer Never Nyemudzo, journalist Beatrice Tonhodzayi, Teresa Murumbi, Thandiwe Nkomo and Tanyaradzwa Mundoga, who is the deputy director for natural resources in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Efforts to get comment from Mutisi were fruitless as he was not answering calls on his mobile phone, while text messages and WhatsApp messages forwarded to his number were also not responded to.
Mupfumira was not answering phone calls.