The National Social Security Authority (NSSA) lost over $31 million following a housing tender scam by its employees last year, a Harare court heard yesterday. Elizabeth Chitiga, a former NSSA general manager, appeared at the Harare Magistrates’ Courts charged with abuse of office, and magistrate Mrs Victoria Mashamba granted her $1 000 bail. Prosecuting, Mr Shepherd Makonde alleged that Chitiga misrepresented to the NSSA board’s investments committee that the parastatal required money to invest in five projects.
She reportedly made a misrepresentation that the NSSA board had approved the projects.
Mr Makonde told the court that NSSA and the National Building Society (NBS) convened a strategic meeting in September 2016.
In their resolutions, they mandated NBS to ensure the provision of 10 000 low-cost houses countrywide.
The court heard that NBS conducted roadshows headed by Engineer Silas Mukono with a view to identifying willing partners.
The team identified 14 possible projects.
They selected five sites to kick-start the programme.
It is alleged that on July 20, 2017, NBS treasurer Latifa Kassim forwarded the five projects to NSSA’s chief strategic investments officer, Chakanyuka Nziradzemhuka for funding by NSSA at a cost of $80 991 200.
On August 24 the same year, a suspected Chitiga accomplice, James Tirivavi Chiuta, who is facing similar charges in court, responded to Kassim through e-mail, listing his own five projects worth $78 827 500.
Chiuta justified the projects by claiming the NBS had insufficient information for approval by the NSSA board.
He handed over the projects to NBS for implementation before NSSA board’s approval.
In a bid to regularise his directives, Chiuta reportedly connived with Chitiga on September 14, 2017 and misrepresented to the NSSA board’s investments committee that the NBS required funding for five projects.
Mr Makonde said acting on this misrepresentation, the NSSA board approved the funding to the tune of $78 827 500 believing the projects to have been approved by both NSSA and NBS yet they had been imposed by Chitiga.
The NBS, through its head of housing projects, conducted due diligence and discovered that only two projects partially met set requirements.
NBS managing director Lameck Danga on October 26 and November 3, 2017 requested a drawdown of US$29 312 899 from NSSA to fund the two projects.
On October 4, 2017, Danga authorised release of the money, leading to the disbursement of US$23 000 000 and $5 600 000 on October 5 and 21 2017 in the name of N-Frays (Pvt) Ltd and Globeny Construction (Pvt) Ltd as purported tender winners for housing projects in Zvishavane and Gweru.
Investigations by NSSA later revealed the two firms were not aware that they had won the tenders as they had not submitted proposals for the pojects.
Representatives of the two companies, who were not identified in the court papers, distanced themselves from the projects when interviewed by NSSA.
Shabani Mashava Mine chief executive officer Chirandu Dyembeu and Shropshiren farm owner Shorai Zonde said they had not signed any agreements with NSSA and NBS for housing construction on the farm. They also denied any knowledge of N-Frays and Globeny Construction (Pvt) Ltd. It is not clear how Mr Dyembeu was dragged into the suspected scam.
NSSA was allegedly prejudiced of $31 727 500 by Chitiga’ and Chiuta’s murky deals.
NSSA is being represented by its acting general manager Emmerson Mungwariri as the complainant in the case.
The matter was remanded to January 11, 2019.–ehrad.co.zw