CEO blew US$6,000 in company funds on holiday, faces 23 fraud charges

Jonathan Mufandaedza

HARARE – National Biotechnology Authority (NBA) chief executive officer Jonathan Mufandaedza raided his company’s finances and spent more than US$6,000 on a holiday in South Africa, and put his gardener and housemaid on his employer’s payroll, a court heard.

Mufandaedza appeared before a Harare magistrate on Wednesday facing 23 charges of fraud after allegedly prejudicing the company of thousands of United States dollars in unapproved or sham expenditure.

On the first charge, prosecutors say sometime in 2015, the CEO authorised bogus payments totaling US$10,000 to Walter Sanyika, Zedias Chikwambi, and Antony Phiri on the pretext they had prepared a national report for NBA on biosafety when in actual fact the report had been compiled by Anna Takombwa.

Prosecutors also alleged that two years earlier, on December 19, 2013, Mufandaedza “instructed his personal assistant Nothando Mnkadhla to deposit US$6,160 for holiday in South Africa despite that the accused person’s contract does not include holiday allowance.”

Mufandaedza blew the money on the junket that extended to Victoria Falls, Masvingo, and Gweru, and other private trips, the court was told.

He would also allegedly withdraw thousands of dollars from the company account to pay for his rentals and rates and went on to burn 28,000 liters of fuel on private vehicles, a benefit not included in his contract.

Mufandaedza allegedly employed several people at NBA without approval from the board.

Prosecutors say the accused signed a four-year contract with one Victoria Munyangadzi to work as a cleaner for NBA then diverted her to work as a housekeeper at his residence.

He also employed Michael Munengiwa as a gardener, Clayton Chitayi, John Dube, and Gresham Chakanyuka as security guards for the company but then deployed them to his leased property.

Mufandaedza is also accused of spending more than US$6,000 buying 6 cellphone gadgets at his employer’s expense between 2013 and 2017, each costing more than US$1,000 without seeking approval from the board.

His contract, prosecutors say, only allowed him one cellphone not exceeding US$1,000 every two years.

Mufandaedza also allegedly hired his bus to ferry NBA staff to the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) in Bulawayo, disregarding an Impala Car hire already approved by the company board.

He is also accused of giving a license to Klein Karoo Seed Marketing without following due process and buying a Land Rover Discovery vehicle without approval.

Magistrate Stanford Mambanje remanded him in custody for a bail hearing.

Mufandaedza’s lawyer Everson Chatambudza argued that the police failed to bring him to court within 48 hours as stipulated by the law and as such should be freed.

He also complained that his client was arrested in January this year but the police failed to bring him to court. -ZimLive