THE Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference (ZCBC) and Caritas Zimbabwe, an agency of the Roman Catholic Church which carries out the church’s social work, could have been prejudiced of about US$600 000, an audit report has revealed.

The audit by BCA Forensic Audit Services dated June 17 2014, which reviewed the use of funds received by Caritas national office from donors from January 2012 to February 2014, reveals that the Caritas secretariat allegedly defrauded the organisation by advancing salaries to themselves before writing the debts off.

Management also defrauded the church by deliberately omitting to record cash withdrawals from bank accounts, attaching fictitious documents to support fraudulent transactions, preparing several sets of accounts for one financial period or one project, and inter-borrowing of funds between project funds, among other schemes.

The alleged fraud was exposed after Cafod (Catholic Agency for Overseas Development) approved a project proposal submitted by Caritas national office to assist victims of politically-motivated violence in the 2013 general elections. Cafod funded the project to the tune of US$30 400.

However, a meeting chaired by one Father Lukio noted that there were no victims of politically-motivated violence post-elections and he directed Caritas management to return all funds for the project.

"An amount of US$4 999,20 was transferred to Cafod. To support how the difference between US$30 400 and US$4 999,20 was used, Caritas national office submitted financial and narrative reports to Cafod. Cafod was not satisfied with the financial report and appointed BCA Forensic Services (Pvt) Ltd to carry out an investigation," reads the report.

The auditors noted the fraudulent activities dating back to 2009.

"ZCBC/Caritas Zimbabwe National Office suffered actual and potential financial prejudice amounting to US$562 869,07 as a result of the actions of its employees," reads the report.

Senior staff members, namely Cornelius Hamadziripi (national director), Wonder Mufunda (national programmes coordinator) and Dadirai Nyamashuka (finance and administration officer) were implicated in the fraud.

The report said the three acted in cahoots and defrauded ZCBC/Caritas of US$132 562,94 through sharing funds from donors/funding partners as "salary advances" and later on fraudulently writing the amounts off.

US$44 343 was advanced to the three members of the secretariat as salary advances and is still classified as such in the financial records of Caritas.

The audit noted that an amount of US$21 620 was given to management as advance salary in 2009, while US$39 649,98 was advanced in 2010 and US$71 292,96 in 2011, but the sums were written off.

It was also revealed that the church could have also been prejudiced of US$140 843 as a result of several transactions in respect of withdrawals from the ZCBC Catholic Development’s Stanbic Bank account number 0222095705701.

Cash was withdrawn from a pool of funds from funding partners, among them Cafod, Caritas Australia, Trocare, Caritas Africa, Caritas Belgium and Catholic Relief Services.

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