Constitutional Court sets aside forensic audit report incriminating former NSSA boss

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By Staff Reporter

The Constitutional Court has set aside a ruling of the Supreme Court upholding a forensic audit report linking former National Social Security Authority (NSSA) chairperson Robin Vela to several corruption cases.

The ruling means the High Court decision which dismissed the audit report is now operational.

The Constitutional Court on Wednesday ordered a fresh hearing of the matter by different judges.

“As agreed to by the full bench of this court, the operative part of the judgement, in the exercise of the court’s powers as stated in section 19 of the court’s rules, the judgement in the Supreme Court in SC 61/22 be and is hereby set aside.

“The matter is remitted to the Supreme Court for a hearing (afresh) before a different panel of judges,” said Justice Paddington Garwe who was part of the bench.

Advocate Method Ndlovu representing Vela, said the “net effect of the Constitutional Court judgment sets aside the judgement of the Supreme Court which means now we have a live judgement”.

The judgement of the High Court as per Chinamora J, is now live, but subject to an appeal at the Supreme Court.

The High Court had also ruled that the audit report by BDO was “biased”, “incompetent” and riddled with “inaccuracies”.

The background is that in March 2019, BDO Zimbabwe Chartered accountants released a damning forensic audit report which implicated Vela in several cases of corruption.

BDO was contracted by the Auditor-General Mildred Chiri.

Vela applied for a review of the audit report and won the matter at the High Court.

He argued that the findings were biased and targeted at him in a witch-hunt exercise.

His appeal was upheld by the High Court.

Former judge Justice Webster Chinamora ruled that auditors BDO Zimbabwe Chartered Accountants had “failed to apply their mind to issue before them, and nullified the audit findings as they relate to Vela.

Vela successfully argued before the High Court that he was not yet board chairman when NSSA allegedly bought properties from MetBank at inflated prices and also proved that the auditors were biased because they failed to make adverse findings against former public service ministers Patrick Zhuwao and Petronella Kagonye, who are accused of issuing directives that were contrary to board resolutions.

Vela said Kagonye forced NSSA to sponsor a disability conference in her Goromonzi South constituency for US$200,000 and to make a further donation of US$200,000 to a school in the same constituency.

BDO Zimbabwe and the Auditor General took the matter to the Supreme Court challenging the High Court’s ruling and it was duly set aside, implying that the audit report was upheld.

The Supreme Court dismissed the issue on a technicality that the report was not subject to review.

Chinamora had said evidence of an agreement between the Auditor General, who commissioned the auditors, and BDO that the latter would send representatives to testify for a fee in court if the audit report resulted in criminal proceedings and disciplinary action “caused concern.”

Vela also argued before the judge that a conclusion that NSSA had suffered a potential loss of US$104 million in a housing scheme being implemented with the Housing Corporation of Zimbabwe wrongly assumed that completed houses would have no takers.

The court also found that the auditors rejected or failed to take notice of Vela’s responses to their questionnaire.

The NSSA forensic audit released in July 2019 led to the arrest of former social welfare minister Prisca Mupfumira, who has since been acquitted of the allegations levelled against her.