Has ZINARA turned the corner?

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By Tatenda Dembedza

ZIMBABWE National Road Administration (ZINARA) board chairman Engineer Michael Madanha says the situation at the parastatal is now ‘normal’ following the recent expulsion of suspended chief executive officer Nancy Masiyiwa- Chamisa and finance director, Simon Taranhike.

For a long time, ZINARA has been hogging the limelight for fraudulent activities, nepotism, diversion of funds to unapproved projects, extravagance and ineffectiveness.

For more than a year, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) has arrested several senior managers and general staff members while the roads authority has also initiated some high level suspensions and expulsions following public outcries widely reported in the media.

In an interview with this publication, Madanha, who is leading the anti-corruption crusade at the parastatal, said that irregularities that led to the dismissal of Masiyiwa-Chamisa, Taranhike and others are being attended to.

“All those grey areas at ZINARA are being looked at seriously. A lot has been done to stop leakages and all abuse of office and the situation is now almost normal,” he said.

He added: “The hunt for a new CEO is already on. We need to staff up unoccupied key positions such as that of the CEO and Finance director. Once that is done, I think Zinara would be just as clean as anything.”

Masiyiwa-Chamisa and finance director Simon Taranhike were last week fired for alleged gross incompetence and abuse of office.

Madanha recently produced a report that listed the problems at ZINARA, among them rampant leakages at the tollgates that the roads authority manages.

The leakages have been blamed for starving revenue collection and the inability of the authority to properly service roads.

“There are leakages at the tollgates, in transit fees and bulk licensing where cashiers pocket public funds and according to a report by one of the employees caught red-handed, the stolen money is shared right up to the echelons of power with rates of contribution by cashiers clearly stipulated,” said Madanha.

Masiyiwa-Chamisa was suspended last year following reports that she had clashed with then Transport minister Jorum Gumbo, who was accused of protecting a group of senior managers who were set to lose their jobs for various offences.

In May this year, about 24 employees were arrested following fraud cases involving more than US$210 000.

The arrest of employees coincided with the resignation of the audit manager, Shadreck Matengabadza and former acting chief executive officer, Mathlene Mujokoro,

Mujokoro’s contract, which was supposed to run until 2021 was cut short.

In March this year, former ZINARA board chair Albert Mugabe, a nephew to late former president, Robert Mugabe, was hauled before the courts on allegations of advancing a loan of $300 000 to Masiyiwa-Chamisa without board approval.

Economic consultant, John Robertson, did not share Madanha’s optimism, saying it was too early to conclude that ZINARA had turned the corner.

“It’s difficult to say if there will be an improvement. For many years, money has disappeared and those funds have not been adequately accounted for,” said Robertson.

At one time, ZINARA was funding political donations for chicken projects run by ex-vice president Phelekezela Mphoko and former first lady, Grace Mugabe.

Mphoko once stormed Avondale Police Station in Harare while acting in Mugabe’s absence and ordered the release of ZINARA directors who had been arrested for fraud.

This is the case for which Mphoko was recently arrested and subsequently released on bail.

“In the last 10 years, this country has lost over 20 billion dollars to corruption,” said Sibanda.

ZINARA was also caught in a storm amid revelations that its senior management procured graders without going to tender, amid fears that the directors pocketed millions of dollars in the process.

One of the directors that Mphoko ordered to be released, Moses Juma, was last year jailed for 30 months after a conviction on fraud.

Another former ZINARA CEO, Frank Chitukutuku, also being probed for fraud, had his multi-million assets frozen in May this year pending investigations into how he acquired them.