‘Zimra bigwigs pocketed $15 million’ Gershem Pasi
Gershem Pasi

Gershem Pasi

Lloyd Gumbo: Senior Reporter—
Suspended Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) Commissioner-General, Mr Gershem Pasi and other members of the executive collectively pocketed about $15 million in salaries and allowances, some of which were unsanctioned in the last three years.

This is contained in a Zimra forensic audit report (January 2014-May 2016) carried out by HLB Zimbabwe Chartered Accountants at the instigation of the Auditor-General mid this year.

The audit report is part of Zimra’s court record filed with the High Court yesterday while responding to Mr Pasi’s urgent application seeking to nullify the revenue collector’s disciplinary processes against the suspended executive members. According to the audit report, Zimra was prejudiced of millions of dollars because of lax internal control systems.

“Average salaries and benefits per month range from $22 962 for the lowest paid executive, to $54 580 per month for the Commissioner-General,” reads the report.

“Total salaries and benefits paid to the 10 executives amounted to $9 762 881, from January 2014 to May 2016. “Holiday allowances, for the period January 2014 to May 2016, amounting to $818 922 were paid directly to the personal bank accounts of the executives, rather than to the travel agents, hotels or service providers during the period under investigation.

“The majority of payments were not supported by tickets, receipts or hotel bills on file.” The auditors also established that the 11 executives were paid about $2 million in motor vehicle allowances from January 2014 to May 2016. They also queried the fuel allowances that were paid at a rate of $1,61 per litre, “an amount which is well above the price of petrol and diesel on the market.”

The auditors added that the Zimra management payroll had never been audited by the internal audit department, resulting in the anomalies in the payroll function not being detected and timeously corrected.

“Ten executives were paid a total of $929 090,31 in school fees allowances for the period January 2014 to May 2016. On 17 May 2016, Mrs (Sithokozile Thembani) Mrewa (director human resources) requested Zimra to pay EUR 4 875 to Near East University for her daughter (Rennie Rose Mrewa).

“Finance department processed a payment of GBP4 875 to Near University. Zimra lost $1 548 as a result of this fraudulent transfer of funds. Nothing had been recovered at the time of reporting. As an example, on 23 August 2016, the school fees allowances paid to Mr G Pasi for his son amounted to $129 524, 74 (grossed up from $62 819). Typically, the funds in question were paid directly into the personal bank accounts of the executives, rather than to the schools or colleges.

“In most instances, there was no evidence on file to support that the executives actually paid the school fees or that the children actually attended those schools,” said the auditors.

Mr Pasi was on Friday last week, officially suspended from duty without pay and summoned to appear for a disciplinary hearing next Tuesday in terms of the Zimra’s code of conduct.

He filed an urgent chamber application at the High Court on Wednesday seeking to block the hearing as well as nullification of his suspension. Through his lawyers, Mambosasa Legal Practitioners represented by Mr Tazorora Musarurwa and Mr Alex Mambosasa, Mr Pasi argued that his suspension was an illegality because it was according to the Zimra code of conduct, but says he should be charged using Statutory Instrument 15 of 2006.

He argued that according to his contract of service, all matters to do with grievances and disciplinary proceedings are to be governed by SI 15 of 2006. But in opposing affidavits on her behalf and the revenue collector, Zimra board chairperson Mrs Willia Bonyongwe said Mr Pasi had not been honest with the courts in his application.

Through Zimra legal practitioners from Kantor and Immerman — Mr Addington Chinake, Mr Simplicio Bhebhe and Tawanda Tandi — Mrs Bonyongwe outlined the legal processes that led to Mr Pasi’s suspension.

“I aver that following the findings of the investigation, I had good cause to charge the applicant of misconduct. As appears from the founding affidavit, the applicant does not seem to deny that he committed acts of misconduct. Rather, instead, raises procedural issues, which I will deal with herein below.

“Noting more needs to be said about the proposed procedural defence, as this is the issue which will have to be determined in the proceedings, which the applicant has now sought to interdict. “In terms of the second respondent’s (Zimra) code of conduct, once the formal proceedings have been instituted, they must be completed within a specific period of time.

“Time is therefore of the essence. Instead of waiting for the hearing, which is scheduled for the 1st of November 2016 to make his objections, the applicant has instead jumped the gun and filed an urgent chamber application with this court in a clear attempt to pre-empt the lawful proceedings, which have been instituted,” said Mrs Bonyongwe. She implored the court to dismiss the application. The matter is set for hearing on Monday.

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