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Vela claims ex-labour minister Kagonye blew US$400k NSSA funds on campaign

By Staff Reporter

The unfolding drama over alleged corruption at the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) took a new twist after former board chairman Robin Vela, fighting parts of the audit report at the High Court, made allegations that former Public Service, Labour and Social welfare minister Petronella Kagonye forced the board to sponsor her political campaign to the tune of US$400,000.

Petronella Kagonye and Robin Vela
Petronella Kagonye and Robin Vela

“I must also point out that the report makes no mention of the fact that Kagonye forced NSSA to ‘sponsor’ to the tune of US$200,000 a disability conference in her Caledonia constituency and a further sum of US$200,000 to a school in Ruwa immediately prior to the July 2018 elections.”

Vela went further to implicate Public Service, Labour and Social Ministry former permanent secretary Ngoni Masoka, principal director Simon Masanga (who is now permanent secretary).

“This vote buying, done through pensioners’ funds for private benefit is not mentioned. Is it because the auditors had a wider political audience to satisfy or otherwise to not offend?”

“The manner in which the investigators (BDO) went about their task speaks to their incompetence, which incompetence affects the outcome of the report… there is malice that permeates and pervades the whole report,” Vela says.

Mr Vela has filed an application at the High Court challenging the credibility of the audit report saying it does not meet the standards of a forensic audit and it was biased.

In the application, in which the Auditor General Mildred Chiri and BDO Zimbabwe Chartered Accountants were listed as respondents, Mr Vela wants the High Court to review and set aside portions of the report that implicate him.

“It is my contention that the Audit report which I seek to impugn is without jurisdiction, irregular, unreasonable, incompetent, biased, malicious and unfair in a manner which violates section 3(1)(a) of the AJA (Administrative Justice Act).

“In the alternative and to the extent that it becomes necessary, I seek to invoke this court’s review powers as set out under sections 26 and 27 of the High Court Act as well as the common law,” reads Mr Vela’s affidavit.

In April this year, Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Dr Sekai Nzenza said the 2018 forensic audit into NSSA revealed glaring governance deficiencies by the Vela-led board.

Auditor-General Mildred Chiri exposed how finances were handled at the institution with NSSA bosses in May 2016 awarding themselves hefty salaries without the consent of the Minister.

Chiri, in her 2016 audit report on State Enterprises and Parastatals, said: “I observed that management’s contracts had amounts that were in excess of the approved framework by the secretary for Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare in May 2016.”

NSSA has been in the news for a number of years for making questionable investments and paying high salaries and perks when pensioners are earning a pittance.

Former managing director Ms Elizabeth Chitiga for example earned around US$202 000 per annum. while the previous management pampered itself with housing loans and luxury vehicles.

NSSA spent US$100 million on investments in “properties with inflated prices and shareholdings in broke companies”. The parastatal lost US$2,5 million in the now defunct CFX Bank, US$12 million on overpriced Starafrica Corporation shares, and US$1,5 million on Africom Continental.

At least US$45 million was sunk in collapsed Interfin Bank. Another US$11,2 million worth of property was lost to local authorities, it gave “non-profitable” loans to parastatals, with the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe getting US$3,1 million and Zesa US$9 million.

In May 2018, Vela sent a dossier to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s office denying alleged corruption at the State pensions body under his tenure.

“The chairperson has no corporate capacity to enter into contracts on behalf of the authority, or indeed to facilitate the movement of funds … the chairman is not a signatory to the Nssa bank account and therefore cannot disburse any payments,” he said, also requesting for a forensic audit into the affairs of Nssa “to put to bed the various misconceptions being put out,” he wrote.

Former Labour Minister, now Tourism Minister, Prisca Mupfumira has since been arrested by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) on corruption allegations involving US$95 million of National Social Security Authority (NSSA) funds.