NSSA audit appeal postponed
Chief Court Reporter
The appeal in which accountants who did a forensic audit on the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) are seeking to quash a High Court ruling that says the audit was biased against former board chairman Robin Vela, or was incompetent, has been postponed indefinitely.
The hearing was set for yesterday before a three-judge panel at the Supreme Court comprising lead judge Justice Chinembiri Bhunu and Justices Nicholas Mathonsi and Alfas Chitakunye.
It was deferred to a later date after the Auditor-General applied to have her own appeal heard together with the one for BDO Chartered Accountants Zimbabwe. This means that the two appeals will be consolidated into a single appeal since the record of the proceedings is the same.
In July last year, the High Court criticised the audit for being silent on abuses by two former ministers of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, when it quashed the audit findings in so far as they implicate Vela in wrongdoing.
BDO Chartered Accountants stand by their report and want the Supreme Court to overturn the lower court’s findings.
Simply by launching the appeal, BDO ensured that the audit report on NSSA remain standing since the High Court judgment is automatically suspended until the Supreme Court hears the appeal.
In its appeal, BDO argued that the audit findings were professionally arrived at after a thorough application of minds of the partners to the issues before them and insisted the report was in no way biased or directed at any particular individual who might have been found to fall foul of the operational procedures and processes of NSSA.
Through their lawyer Mr Raphael Tsivama, the auditors argued that the High Court erred at law that the auditing exercise was an administrative action which could be reviewed at the instance of Vela.
The lawyers say the High Court erred in finding that the auditors showed bias against Vela when there is no evidence supporting such a finding.
The High Court erred in concluding that BDO did not apply its mind to the issues before it in the absence of any evidence controverting the findings made in the audit report, and when the scope of such audit was determined by the terms of reference set by the Auditor-General, according to BDO lawyer.
But in its ruling, the High Court found that what it saw as a lack of impartiality by BDO auditors was critical to the credibility and validity of the entire forensic report.
Vela had challenged the report produced on behalf of the Auditor-General of Zimbabwe compiled by BDO to probe the pensions body, saying it ignored crucial documents in what he averred was a targeted witch-hunt.