Zvamaida Murwira: Senior Reporter
Suspended Zimbabwe Revenue Authority Commissioner-General Mr Gershem Pasi fraudulently awarded himself $1 million in benefits outside his contract, after seeking approval from his subordinates instead of either from the board or the parent ministry, an audit has revealed.Auditors also raised eyebrows over the circumstances under which he authorised the Zimra director of human resources, Ms Christine Msemburi’s, secondment to Kenya where she was paid relocation allowances and other benefits before approval had been granted by the board and parent ministry.
The audit said Mr Pasi should be held liable for a $128 000 performance award, leave encashment, air tickets, holiday allowances and other benefits paid to Ms Msemburi at a time she was not offering any service to Zimra since she was already working for the World Customs Organisation Regional Office for Capacity Building in Kenya.
This is contained in a forensic audit report conducted by HLB Zimbabwe Chartered Accountants into the operations of the revenue collector following reports of corruption and poor corporate governance by whistleblowers. The report is part of Zimra’s court record filed with the High Court while responding to Mr Pasi’s urgent application seeking to halt disciplinary processes against him. According to the audit, Mr Pasi would ostensibly seek approval from subordinates for him to draw almost $1 million at various intervals.
“Our investigations revealed that benefits that are not specifically stipulated in the Commissioner-General’s contract of employment are both approved and paid to him by his subordinates without board approval. During the period under review, the Commissioner-General was paid $374 451, $204 463 and $136 374 for motor vehicle allowances, holidays allowances and performance awards respectively without specific board approval,” read the report.
In one instance, Mr Pasi was paid $15 525 in legal expenses to negotiate his own contract while in another case, Mr Pasi sought approval from subordinate to have his daughter drive a Zimra vehicle.
“This amount ($15 525) should be recovered from Mr Pasi as this payment was of a personal nature,” read the report.
In March 2014, Mr Pasi was paid $5 000 international holiday allowance as per his contract but went on to make another claim in December 2014 of the same amount for holiday purposes.
It was also noted that Mr Pasi used a Zimra Visa card to settle personal debts without reimbursement to the tune of $85 000 in 2009 and unilaterally raised his per diem rates when he travelled to Kenya by claiming top-up when he returned.
After the anomaly was detected by external auditors, finance director Mr Robert Mangwiro instructed his two subordinates to raise the issue with Mr Pasi.
“We find it odd that the finance director chose to send a delegation of his subordinates to discuss this matter with the Commissioner-General,” read the report.
It also emerged that Mr Pasi was paid $21 219 in board fees which was not taxed but when confronted, the Commissioner-General declined to repay saying the tax should be deducted from his future board fees.
“Our investigation also revealed that Mr Pasi received board fees in the sum of $16 200 in spite of the fact that he is not a non-executive director of Zimra,” read the report.
On Ms Msemburi, the audit noted that Mr Pasi released her to commence work in Kenya and paid relocation allowances and other benefits well before the ministry’s approval and issues raised related to the financing model and synchronisation of her contract had not yet been addressed.
“The board approval was merely a condonation of a violation already done. There was no basis on why Ms Msemburi was paid $10 810, instead of the approved $5 800 for the cited periods. There is no evidence that the board authorised her prolonged stay in Kenya from June 2015 to September 2015,” read the report.
“Zimra should recover the $49 043, which it lost by way of unauthorised expenditure, attributable to Ms Msemburi.”
Mr Pasi approved payment of $28 512 as removal costs of Ms Msemburi’s household property and motor vehicle for relocation to Kenya without board approval.
“In fact, there was no evidence that the board was ever aware of this transaction,” read the report.
It was noted that Mr Pasi seconded Ms Msemburi despite facing major health challenges which had earlier on seen her working during mornings only thus compromising the name of the country, Zimra and her welfare as well.
“On 12 October 2015, Mr Pasi authorised Ms Msemburi to take 70 vacation leave days when the balance was 15 days. The difference of 55 days was taken as paid leave,” read the report.
Zimra also paid air tickets to Geneva, Switzerland, for Ms Msemburi’s daughter despite there being no provision warranting payment of airfares for dependants.