Felex Share Senior Reporter
The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission yesterday came under fire for impugning Government systems and circumventing ministries in its quest to investigate alleged corruption in parastatals and local authorities.
Secretary for Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Mr George Charamba said while Government did not condone corruption, ZACC, being a constitutional body, should not behave like a “rattlesnake” that makes noise first before striking and make such noise in the media.
ZACC, Mr Charamba said, should first investigate cases and not act on insufficient information.
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This follows an illogical raid carried by some anti-corruption officials last week on some parastatals and Harare City Council.
The officials, who were purported to be investigating alleged fraud and disregard of tender procedures, yesterday visited the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation to “investigate” the procurement of 35 operational vehicles early this year.
It has emerged that the anti-corruption officials were acting on weak evidence, obtained through an anonymous letter yet the procurement was done with the blessings of the Office of the President and Cabinet and all tender procedures were followed.
It also emerged that the tussle for leadership positions at ZBC had seen some demoted managers ganging up with offloaded workers to undermine the integrity of the acting chief executive, Mr Patrick Mavhura.
The timing of the probe has also been questioned as the leading ZACC investigating officer Mr Servious Kufandada has a tainted past as he stands accused of working with opposition political parties during the run up to the 2013 elections.
Mr Charamba said by planting stories before investigating, some ZACC officials wanted to cause chaos in Government.
He said false stories that had hit the social media of late were originating from the same source which thinks “this country badly needs a grievance that can galvanise Zimbabweans into a show of public disaffection.”
“The Anti-Corruption (Commission) cannot behave as if there are no systems in Government unless they are impugning the Government system,” he said.
“It is very rare that a very good investigation and a good headline coincide. They cannot as a constitutional body behave like a rattlesnake which makes a lot of noise before striking. I really wished they knew the kind of chaos they triggered in Government with the stories they planted through the national press. There must be a way of approaching issues of concern professionally, establish prima facie case and then only approach the media when investigations conclude otherwise their motives become questionable. ZACC must be in the habit of making the ministries their first port of call. Of course, the situation gets different where a permanent secretary is directly implicated. This is the starting point. As it emerges in the case of ZBC we had long dealt with that matter at the instance of the OPC following a false whistleblower. As it turns out this was a bad guy trying to attack the integrity of the acting chief executive and unbeknown to him everything around the purchasing of the vehicles was done above board.”
Faced with an urgent need for operational vehicles in the face of the digitisation programme, Mr Mavhura asked for permission from his parent ministry to ride on a CMED running tender.
CMED, at any given time, has a running tender with Paza Buster and Croco Motors and charges 2,5 percent for an entity that rides on their tender.
A Cabinet authority is a requirement in such an arrangement.
Mr Charamba said ministries had internal control processes for their own operations and those of their respective parastatals.
The auditors, he said, reported directly to the permanent secretary.
“If I am in doubt in respect of any of my parastatals, I actually deploy that audit unit to go and do an investigation and where I feel the matter is much larger than my own internal audit, I go to the Government auditor machinery, which means I will be summoning larger auditing powers as a permanent secretary to ensure there is thorough investigation on any aspect that will be in doubt from the point of view of probity,” he said.
He discouraged the media from acting on the basis of information provided by civil servants from ZACC
“They are not the voices of the anti-corruption commission,” he said.
“They must deal with commissioners in whose hands reposes policy. They must avoid getting briefings from civil servants who go beyond their parameters behaving as if they are commissioners. What is constitutionally recognised is the office of the commissioner not an employee of the Commission. After all the civil servant who played a lead role on these matters is a character Government had problems with in the run up to 2013 elections and one will find it very peculiar that his zest for weeding out corruption always comes a few years before an election. One really wonders what the motive is.”
Mr Charamba went on: “For quite a while, there has been an attempt to find combustible subject matter which would ignite and burn this country and in the past two weeks we have seen a human effigy pretending to be Itai Dzamara hoping it will be another Bouazizi to the Zimbabwean situation. We have had some strange stories of our Zimbabweans attacked by Renamo at Mt Selinda which story quickly changed that a whole busload of Zimbabwean soldiers had been massacred by Renamo fighters as if we have any operation in Mozambique. Add onto that the false story of (Patrick) Chinamasa’s son trying to spirit away $7 million and you wonder the motive.”
On the 35 ZBC vehicles, Mr Mavhura kept the board and the ministry aware of every step management was taking.
He also involved all heads of department in everything he did, including taking them to Croco Motors to view and agree on the vehicles they intended to buy.
It has emerged that the alleged whistleblower, Mr Constantino Tsatsayi, working in cahoots with some senior managers, approached the Office of President and Cabinet reporting violation of tender procedures unaware that the high office was privy to every development.
Mr Charamba in December last year wrote to his counterpart in the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development Mr Munesu Munodawafa requesting for permission to buy the vehicles, riding on the CMED tender.
Mr Munodawafa on January 7 turn wrote to the Office of the President and Cabinet in January seeking authority.
Read his letter: “Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services intends to but 45 operational vehicles on behalf of Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation which they needed to gather content material for the organisation. In light of the foregoing, authority is sought in terms of Cabinet Circular Number 16 of 2011, to allow Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services to purchase the required vehicles for use by the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Services.”
The Office of the President and Cabinet granted the authority to Mr Munodawafa on February 5.
“Please be advised that in terms of Cabinet Circular 16 of 2011, authority is hereby granted to purchase operational vehicles for Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation,” read the letter.
Mr Munodawafa in turn relayed the information to Mr Charamba emphasising that tender procedures had to be adhered to.