Harare City Council’s top executives plundered at least $389 000 from the traditional beer levy account which they used to buy personal vehicles, an audit report has revealed.
According to the report by a tribunal chaired by retired High Court judge, Justice George Smith which was tasked to look into how senior management at Town House were running the local authority, funds meant for water, sanitation and health were diverted and used to buy vehicles.
“The diversion of the funds to the personal accounts for the personal benefit of a select group of members of executive management was illegal,” reads part of the report.
“The purchase of vehicles by members of executive management was also unprocedural in terms of the council’s own policies and procedures.”
Among those who allegedly benefitted were Prosper Chonzi ( health director), Tendai Kwenda (finance director), R.T. Chinengundu, Cainos Chingombe (human resources). The directors were suspended following the audit.
Smith’s team said according to law, money from the traditional beer levy should only be used to “fund the provision of services that include water and sanitation, health, education, recreation and other related interventions.”
“The money shall not be part of the general revenue of the local authority and must only be used for the welfare of the community as approved by the minister,” the report stated.
Chonzi allegedly received $130 000 from the fund and bought a second-hand accident-damaged vehicle purportedly for the sum of $110 000.
“He failed to transfer the excess funds received back to the council bank account. This amounts to misappropriation of council funds,” the audit report read.
On Kwenda, the report says; “a vehicle worth $70 000 was assessed as appropriate for his grade of employment, yet mysteriously he opted to import a Jeep Cherokee from the USA worth $97 500, hence contributing a total of $27 500 from his personal funds.
“This is despite his full appreciation, at the time, of the fact that the amount advanced was not a loan and the vehicle purchased belonged to his employer.
“Secondly, despite his full knowledge that council vehicles are insured by council, he went on to insure the vehicle using his personal funds, which funds he demanded back from council.
“This is particularly absurd because the insurance department falls under his portfolio.
“Thirdly, he did not register the vehicle in the council’s fixed assets register and has not done so to date.
“His culpability in not entering the asset on that register may suggest an intention to prejudice council.
“As the custodian of the assets of council, he was aware of the implications of his actions and did not act in the best interests of council. The vehicle was registered in his name.
“Chingombe purchased a brand new vehicle from Toyota and registered it in his name, despite being the proposer of the scheme, which was devised only to avoid the cumbersome state procurement process, and not to enrich himself and other executives unjustly.
“The registration of the vehicle in his name was a clear violation of the spirit in which he received council’s approval of his illegal recommendations.”
– The Standard