Takunda Maodza Assistant News Editor
Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission commissioners are still drawing salaries and hiring vehicles from the CMED for use despite being out of contract since August last year when their tenure expired, prejudicing Treasury of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Of the ZACC commissioners, only chairperson Mr Denford Chirindo’s term subsists.
Ms Teresa Mugadza, Dr Elita Sakupwanya, Mr Emmanuel Chimwanda, Mr Lakayana Dube, Dr Goodwill Shana and Mr Shepherd Gwasira’s terms expired on August 31 last year, and they have been in limbo for close to six months while drawing salaries and benefits for doing nothing.
By mid-December last year, the commission owed CMED US$456 848.85 for the hired vehicles.
President Mugabe appointed the Anti-Corruption Commission on September 1, 2011 to stem corruption in the country.
The commission had a statutory two-year term of office which expired on August 31 last year after which the commissioners’ salaries were stopped by the Salary Services Bureau.
Secretary for Home Affairs Mr Melusi Matshiya, however, directed the SSB to continue paying the six commissioners their salaries even though their contracts had expired, which salaries they drew up to January this year.
By commission and/or omission, Mr Matshiya is in possible violation of Section 174 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) [Chapter 9:23] that spells out that it is criminal abuse of duty as public officer (1) If a public officer, in the exercise of his duty or her functions as such, intentionally — (a) does anything that is contrary to or inconsistent with his or her duty as a public officer; or (b) omits to do anything which it is his or her duty as a public officer to do; for the purpose of showing favour or disfavour to any person, he or she shall be guilty of criminal abuse of duty as a public officer and liable to a fine not exceeding level thirteen or imprisonment for period not exceeding fifteen years or both.
Earlier this week, Mr Chirindo wrote to Mr Matshiya seeking clarity on the matter and warning that it was not in the public interest for Treasury to incur costs for no service as the commissioners were out of contract.
Reads the letter dated February 25, 2014: “Mr Secretary Sir, the Salary Services Bureau (SSB) ceased the salaries of the six commissioners on 31 August 2013 which marked the end of their contracts of employment with the Government of Zimbabwe. Sir, commissioners have not been doing commission work in anticipation of communication from you on their legal status or terminal benefits.
“Mr Secretary Sir, from 01 September 2013 to date, the six commissioners have been and are driving CMED hired vehicles on charge to the commission’s operations vote in anticipation of guidance from your office on their legal status or communication on their terminal benefits pursuant to their expired contracts of employment.”
In December last year, Mr Chirindo wrote to Mr Matshiya appraising him of the ballooning CMED vehicle hire costs.
“Mr Secretary Sir, you will recall the chairperson’s letter dated 13 December 2013 advising that the CMED vehicles hire costs had reached US$456 848.85 and CMED had threatened to switch off the vehicles on hire to commissioners. The secretary will also recall his immediate and prompt efforts to secure US$347 000.00 from Treasury at the end of December 2013 and instructing the commission to pay CMED.
“Please note that this happened at a time the commission had no fuel for operations or for staff to move from point A to point B and staff were working half a day because the commission had no money to purchase a borehole pump and commission toilets were dysfunctional,” he said.
Added Mr Chirindo: “The Secretary may want to know that the CMED vehicle hire and maintenance costs for vehicles being driven by commissioners who are waiting to be advised by yourself Sir on their legal status or terminal benefits currently stands at US$184 447.83 as at February 2014.”
He warned Mr Matshiya such behaviour was tantamount to sleeping on duty.
“Mr Secretary Sir, the omission by the ministry to advise the six commissioners on their legal status or terminal benefits whichever comes first may be construed as a care free attitude towards public funds and this is very expensive to the public purse in light of the prevailing harsh economic environment. The omission is not in the interests of the public and requires urgent corrective measures in compliance with the Constitution of Zimbabwe, the Anti-Corruption Commission Act, the Public Finance Management Act and Treasury Instructions,” Mr Chirindo said.
Mr Matshiya actually directed the SSB to pay the commissioners their salaries even though their contracts had expired.
“The commission acknowledges receipt of six letters from your office to the director SSB in respect of each of the commissioners signed by your office directing director SSB to pay the six commissioners their salaries with effect from 01 September 2013 to 31 January 2014. We implore on you Sir to urgently take corrective measures to address the situation where commissioners whose term of office expired on 31 August 2013, are not doing commission work, are driving CMED hired vehicles and the hire charges are drawn from the commission’s operation vote, their salaries have been reinstated with effect from 01 September 2013 but still there is no communication from you Sir on their legal status or communication from you Sir stating that they should come back to the commission and work,” Mr Chirindo said.
He urged Mr Matshiya to exercise financial discipline.
“Mr Secretary Sir the public pronouncements which have been made loud and clear by the Hon Minister of Finance on the status of treasury requires a high level of financial discipline by all public officials who draw from the public purse to avoid irregular expenditure or a fruitless and wasteful expenditure,” Mr Chirindo said.
He urged Mr Matshiya to urgently address the situation and “avoid financial misconduct as defined by the Public Finance Management Act”
Contacted for comment, Mr Matshiya insisted the commissioners were entitled to the benefits as their terms of office were extended and took a swipe at Mr Chirindo.
“Why don’t you get Chirindo to answer all those issues since he is the boss there? He is the guy in charge of the commission. There is a letter extending the commissioners’ term of office and that is what Chirindo should explain to you.
‘’As far as we are concerned they are in office and they are entitled to any benefits a commissioner is entitled to. Their term of office ends this month and their packages are being worked out. The use of vehicles does not matter at all. I am aware that they were given money by treasury. Zvaarikutaura ndezvake izvo,” he charged.
Repeated efforts to get a comment from Mr Chirindo were fruitless with the anti-corruption boss not answering his mobile phone.