Repairing damaged road sections in Zimbabwe (file photo).
By Veneranda Langa
Unnamed bigwigs in government are allegedly meddling with investigations by Parliament into the operations of the Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (Zinara) after an audit unearthed massive corruption.
The Tendai Biti-led public accounts committee (PAC) launched the probe after a 2016 forensic audit on Zinara by the auditor-general Mildred Chiri exposed the rot where multi-million dollar contracts were awarded clandestinely.
Biti said there were attempts to stop the committee’s hearings on Friday where Zinara executives and Univern directors were grilled.
“I even got calls from very high offices trying to ensure that this meeting today does not take place, but we are very determined to get to the bottom of it,” Biti said while addressing other MPs.
When the MPs grilled the Zinara management represented by acting CEO Mathlene Mujokoro, finance director Simon Taranhike and ousted director of administration Precious Murove, Dzivarasekwa MP Edwin Mushoriwa raised the issue of the alleged interference.
Mushoriwa said there were reports that the Zinara management was summoned prior to the meeting and ordered not to cooperate with Parliament.
“Is it true that you were summoned by high offices and told that you should not cooperate with the PAC by people that have a lot to lose through exposition of Zinara?” Mushoriwa asked Mujokoro.
Biti asked: “Is it true that you have been threatened by powerful mafia to the extent that now during your appearance before the committee you do not want to answer questions by MPs? “
Mujokoro, Taranhike and Murove did not answer or respond to some questions raised by the MPs until the meeting ended abruptly.
Mujokoro had earlier told the committee that she would not respond to issues raised in the audit report, saying it was prepared solely for use by Chiri and Transport minister Biggie Matiza.
She said she needed written permission from Chiri and Matiza before responding to the questions raised by the MPs.
“I have not been threatened, but there are legal obligations stemming from article 6.1 of the disclaimer that may arise if I say anything without written permission,” she said.
“It definitely has implications and that is why the disclaimer was put and it will affect us legally because it requires the consent of the Transport minister for us to speak on the audit report.”
However, Biti charged that Parliament had constitutional obligations to question the Zinara management on issues raised in the audit report.
Biti said the forensic audit report had been tabled by Chiri and was now Parliament property and the responsibility of PAC to gather oral evidence on it.
The MPs wanted to know why former Zinara chairperson Albert Mugabe pocketed $237 000 in board fees while other board members got as little as $90 000, among many other issues raised in the audit.
The forensic audit, the PAC said, was carried out by reputable auditors Grant Thornton at the instigation of Chiri.