Vela Threatens To Sue NSSA Auditor Over Defamatory Report

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By Staff Reporter

FORMER National Social Security Authority (NSSA) board chair Robin Vela has threatened to take legal action against audit firm BDO International over the 2019 audit report on the State-owned company’s Pay-As-You-Go scheme.

Vela deems the audit findings as extremely defamatory and wants BDO to dissociate itself from the report.

The report implicates him in systematic siphoning of NSSA funds running into millions of dollars. He also wants BDO to issue a public apology.

Failure to do so, Vela said in a letter of demand submitted to BDO through his Johannesburg-based law firm Webber Wentzel, he would seek legal redress.

The new threats come after the High Court last month set aside the BDO audit report ruling it was as unfair following Vela’s application to have it thrown away.

In a damning judgment issued on June 17, 2020, High Court judge Webster Chinamora agreed with Vela that investigations leading to release of the report were biased and that the auditors did not apply their minds to issues before them.

Justice Chinamora also awarded punitive costs against BDO allowing Vela to appoint an international defamation litigation dream team to pursue damages against BDO International, the parent company of BDO Zimbabwe Chartered Accountants who conducted the investigation and whose conduct, Chinamora ruled, warranted censure.

“As you are aware, the report makes several false and defamatory statements against our client without any factual basis or corroborated by any objective evidence, including the allegation that our client had corrupt dealings in various transactions and tasks undertaken in his previous role as non-executive board chairman of the NSSA,” the letter, dated July 27, 2020, reads in part.

“These allegations are false and extremely defamatory of our client, whose hard-earned reputation as a businessman with integrity has been established throughout his career.

“BDO  International  has  to  date  not  disassociated  itself  from the  report, despite  being made aware of the fact that the report was inaccurate, irregular, biased and defamatory of our client from as early as October 2019, and despite the fact that the High Court of Zimbabwe has set aside the report on the grounds of bias and the fact that the auditors compiling the report did not properly apply their minds to the issues before them.”

Vela’s lawyers added; “Despite the High Court of Zimbabwe setting aside the report insofar as it pertains to our client, our client continues to suffer harm to his reputation as a result of the allegations contained in the report.

“The report continues to bear the label of the internationally recognised and respected brand of BDO International – thus providing the report with credibility and further perpetuating the defamatory nature of the allegations contained therein,” the letter further reads.

“The Judgement raised certain questions about BDO Zimbabwe Senior Partner, Mr. Ngoni Kudenga. It is our client’s view that Mr. Kudenga was never independent of mind and remains compromised given his political considerations and indebtedness to the Zimbabwean political system. We also wish to bring to your attention that our client has appointed a leading South African forensic auditing firm to undertake an independent review of the report and BDO’s conduct in respect of the report.

“As a result of the above, our client has instructed us to request that BDO International disassociates itself from the report in a public statement insofar as it pertains to our client, by no later than 11 August 2020. Should BDO International not provide the requested public statement by 11 August 2020, our client will consider exercising his rights in law against both BDO International and BDO Zimbabwe.  We look forward to hearing from you by no later than close of business on 11 August 2020.”