Lloyd Gumbo Senior Reporter
The State Procurement Board wants about $870 000 from the estate of former chairperson, the late Charles Kuwaza, to recover money that the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority garnished from the board’s account after he evaded paying Pay As You Earn since 2009. Kuwaza allegedly committed suicide last week as he faced five counts of corruption before the courts involving over $1 million and ZW$2,5 billion.
One of the charges before the magistrate’s courts was that contrary to his duties, he ordered SPB’s payroll officers not to deduct PAYE from his taxable benefits without proof of an appropriate tax directive from Zimra.
This resulted in the revenue collector garnishing SPB’s bank accounts a total of $869 820 as recovery of the untaxed benefits.
Mr Kuwaza’s tax arrears and penalties were more than $1 million.
In an interview with The Herald yesterday, SPB board chairperson Ambassador Buzawani Mothobi said they wanted to recover the money that Zimra garnished.
“We are not going to recover that money from Zimra because there is no basis at law for doing that,” he said.
“Our issue is with the late individual, so we will recover from his estate. We are only going to recover the money that was garnished by Zimra. In fact, we are at the beginning of the whole process because the mechanics of the whole thing just changed overnight.”
Ambassador Mothobi said the SPB would not be liable for the balance that was due to Zimra.
Other insiders and legal practitioners said the SPB was justified to claim its dues from Mr Kuwaza’s estate.
“The issue is that the employee who was representing the employer, who is Kuwaza, was supposed to have instructed staff to deduct PAYE, but he put it in writing that they should not do that, which is why the matter was referred to criminal trial,” said a lawyer who preferred anonymity.
“Now that this person has decided not to go through the criminal process, the only thing left is for SPB to make a claim from his estate to recover the money that was taken by Zimra.
“The only cases that have fallen away are to do with theft, the vehicle one and abuse of office. But tax obligation still remains because there is tax at death. You cannot run away from tax because you are dead. So the SPB is now adopting the civil process to claim the money from his estate.”
University of Zimbabwe law lecturer, Professor Lovemore Madhuku, said when one was deceased, their case was dealt with under the Deceased Estate Act.
“Some transactions cannot be affected by death while others are affected by death,” he said. “But in terms of taxes that were due and payable, they are not affected by death.
“If the SPB are able to prove that the deceased prejudiced them, then they claim from his estate. But it is the duty of the employer to deduct and pay. So, they may have challenges proving themselves on that.”
Another lawyer who preferred anonymity said: “Kuwaza’s estate is liable potentially in both instances, but the cases would need to be proved that there is no pre-existing court order.
“But the executor and heirs can challenge Zimra’s claims. The executor can also fight SPB, but in all cases, Zimra would still be a party. It’s a triangular litigation.”
It was alleged that during his tenure of office as SPB chairperson, Kuwaza engaged in criminal activities to the prejudice of the State.
The allegations stemmed from the transactions unearthed by an Office of President and Cabinet during special audit. According to the indictment, Kuwaza faced one count of theft, two counts of fraud and two counts of criminal abuse of duty as a public officer.
Instead of handing the vehicle to SPB, Kuwaza allegedly converted it to his personal use, prejudicing the SPB of the vehicle valued at $120 000.
On count two, Kuwaza, being a public officer, allegedly acted contrary to his duties by ordering SPB’s payroll officers not to deduct Pay As You Earn from his taxable benefits without proof of an appropriate tax directive from Zimra, resulting in the tax collector garnishing SPB’s accounts a total of $869 820 as recovery of the untaxed benefits.