ZimStat boss granted bail Zimstat director general Taguma Mahonde.

Prosper Dembedza

Herald Correspondent

ZIMSTAT director general Taguma Mahonde has been granted bail of US$200 on charges of fraud and obstructing the course of justice over his alleged corrupt claims for school fee allowances over five terms and his alleged attempts to cover up and block investigations into these claims.

The fraud charge covers his claims for the maximum in his school fees allowance for three children for the third term of 2021, all three terms last year and the first term this year, although he had only two children needing school fees. 

The obstruction of justice charge arises from his attempts to block investigations by having the ZimStat internal auditor suspended and dismissed.

The State and its witness, who is investigating officer Eric Chacha of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC), had opposed the granting of bail.

It is the State’s case that on June 24, 2019, Mahonde entered into a contract of employment with ZimStat for the position of director-general. The contract included, among other things, an educational allowance for himself and his children.

The court heard that on September 3, 2021, ZimStat board of directors increased the education allowance for the director-general to US$800 a child a term for a maximum of three children, making a maximum of US$2 400 if there were three or more children. 

The same day Mahonde allegedly claimed this maximum allowance for the third term of 2021 and ZimStat paid $206 532, the equivalent of US$2 400 converted at interbank rate of that day into Mahonde’s bank account. Mahonde had only two children of school-going age so the claim for a third was allegedly fraudulent.

On January 24 last year, Mahonde is alleged to have generated a memo in which he allegedly misrepresented that the school fees for his three children was US$2 400. The next day ZimStat paid $270 775, the equivalent to US$2 400 for the first term converted at the rate of US$1: $112.

On May 22 last year, Mahonde claimed the second term fees of US$2 400 and the next day, ZimStat paid $398 386, the equivalent at the interbank rate of US$1: $165.994.

On September 6 last year, Mahonde claimed the third term fees again of US$2 400 and ZimStatpaid him $1 392 448, the equivalent at the then rate. On January 23 this year, he claimed first term fees for three children and was paid $1 756 808.

However, this time it is alleged that between September 2021 to January 2023, Mahonde had only two school going children; one at a primary school and one at a nursery school.

Investigations established that all the payments made by ZimStat towards Mahonde’s children’s school fees were paid into his personal account and that his claims were not supported by school invoices.

The fraudulent claims were unearthed during an internal audit conducted by Mr Claudius Matiza, in his capacity as head of internal audit at ZimStat. 

On April 20 this year, Mahonde allegedly tried to obstruct the investigations through suspending Matiza. It is reported that Matiza had been assisting ZACC with investigations since March 1, in relation to Mahonde.

In a bid to frustrate the completion of investigations, Mahonde allegedly dismissed Matiza so he could not provide evidence to the investigators.

It is further alleged that in a bid to further frustrate the completion of the case by ZACC, Mahonde allegedly tabled a proposal to review his educational allowances to the ZimStat board on September 1 this year. 

Investigations established that the proposal allegedly tabled by Mahonde influenced the ZimStat board to approve the board minutes and backdate the educational allowance in a bid to sanitise the alleged offence.

 Despite knowing that ZACC was investigating an alleged abuse of the educational allowance, the ZimStat board passed a resolution, increasing the educational allowances for Mahonde from US$7 200 to US$13 500 a year and backdating this to September 3, 2021, thereby sanitising and covering the abuse of educational allowance.

It is alleged that when Mahonde dismissed Matiza, he knew that ZACC was investigating allegations of fraud and that Matiza was a key witness by virtue of the office he held.

Investigations further established that Mahonde had been calling Matiza daily threatening him to stop whistleblowing to ZACC and ordering him to hand over the documents which implicated him.

After investigations had already started, Mahonde is alleged to have transferred $756 047.33 on March 21 and 22 March this year, as refund for claiming US$4 000 for the non-existent child over five terms in a bid to cover up for the offence.

Investigations further revealed that at the time of refund, the interbank rate was $915.1822 and the whole amount paid amounted to US$826.

As a result of the misrepresentation by Mahonde over five terms, ZimStats processed and paid school fees for three school going children suffering an actual prejudice of US$4 000, for the non-existent third child, and US$826 was recovered. 

ZACC also said they are investigating Mahonde for fraud.

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