By Nomalanga Moyo
Forensic auditors appointed to probe Air Zimbabwe accounts have charged the troubled national airline almost half a million dollars in fees.
The bill is from audit firm BCA which is owned by Budhama Chikamhi and dates back to January 2011, according to theNewsDay.
The contract was awarded to BCA without going to tender and Chikamhi may have got the Air Zim job because of his links to ZANU PF officials, the newspaper suggests.
Figures indicate that the forensic auditors billed Air Zim $370,562 for the period up to July 2013. There were no figures indicating fees for the remainder of that year but the NewsDay said based on information given by its sources, the figure is likely to be around $100,000.
This would bring the total fees to $470,562. The newspaper says it has documents proving that the forensic auditors had been paid at least $284,000 by February this year, including payments through air tickets worth $3,932.
The auditors finally submitted their findings for the period 2009 to March 2013 this year February, when ZANU PF Transport Minister Obert Mpofu extended their contract.
Mpofu said he wanted the firm to audit the period from March to December 2013 citing indications of more irregularities which transpired during that period.
A number of senior Air Zim managers have been charged with fraud involving multi-million dollar scams at the national carrier since BCA submitted its report.
The ZANU PF government says the arrests are part of a serious fight against public sector corruption. But political observers dismiss this, and say those arrested so far are “small fish” sacrificed to protect the real criminals who are running the country.
The country’s chief attorney has already ruled out prosecuting fraudsters.
Chikamhi’s firm BCA has benefited from other government contracts apart from the Air Zim deal.
In 2009, the Home Affairs Ministry appointed BCA to probe the Meikles family-linked firms, as ZANU PF officials moved to seize the assets of one of the country’s enduring business clans under the guise of indigenisation.
Speaking to SW Radio Africa Wednesday, Harare resident Kuzivakwashe Shumba said the fact that it took the auditors five years to submit a report raises questions about their capacity to handle complex contracts.
Shumba said it was wrong and corrupt for the government to give firms contracts without following necessary tender procedures.
“This is how we end up with auditors who take forever to finish their reports. If someone is handed a contract because of their links, they won’t see the need to be professional.”
Shumba commended the auditors for managing to uncover corruption and fraud at Air Zim and other government entities.
“But there is nothing to reassure Zimbabweans that anyone will be jailed regardless of how much they have stolen.
“What we are seeing is ZANU PF ministers protecting the likes of Harare Town Clerk Tendai Mahachi who continues to receive his fat salary while council workers have gone for three months without pay.
“This corruption will not stop until Zimbabweans realise that it is their duty to stand up, take to the streets and force this government to stop stealing and protecting thieves,” Shumba added. SW Radio Africa