Prisons loses $700k in Treasury scam

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Peter Matambanadzo Senior Reporter—

Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs secretary Mrs Virginia Mabiza has called for the arrest of six officials in her ministry accused of misappropriating more than US$700 000. The six are the ministry’s chief accountant, three assistant accountants and two auditors who were suspended from work in April together with 24 Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services officers for allegedly diverting funds meant for the sustenance of prison inmates to personal use.

Mrs Mabiza said in an interview that the ministry had since communicated to the police that they should not proceed by way of summons, but arrest the suspects.

“Police have prepared dockets, but I was also saying to them (police) proceeding by way of summons has a tendency to trivialise matters,” she said. “Why are you not putting them on remand so that they also appear in a manner that shows the gravity of the offence.”

Mrs Mabiza said it was unthinkable that people who prejudiced the Government of such an amount could be allowed to come to court from their homes.

“We are talking about an amount in excess of US$700 000 being misappropriated through connivance by a group,” she said.
“So, we are saying police should put them in the cells and take them to court.”

Allegations against the six officials are that they operated a tightly-knit chain running across the ministry, Treasury and ZPCS.
It is alleged that Treasury allocated at least US$700 000 to the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs for onward transmission to the ZPCS.

The funds, released in tranches in 2013, were specifically dedicated to the day-to-day running of the service, including food purchases for prison inmates, fuel, water and electricity bills.

It is suspected the Treasury officials took advantage of loopholes in the Public Finance Management System to steal, working in cahoots with officers in the ZPCS and officials responsible for finance and procurement.

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