Matanga corruption investigation hits a snag





THE high-profile corruption investigation against police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga, among other cases, has been stalled by the failure of a key state witness, former Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Praz) chief executive officer Nyasha Chizu, to access vital information after he was removed in January, documents reveal.

OWEN GAGARE

Chizu had been credited for professionalising the authority, which had also partnered Transparency International Zimbabwe, to fight corruption in public procurement processes.

He was sent on forced leave in July last year, a day after he told parliament’s committee on Budget, Finance and Economic Development that some entities had not complied with procurement guidelines issued by the authority in March when the Covid-19 pandemic was declared a national disaster.

Praz revealed it did not oversee all procurement of goods and services by government departments to combat Covid-19.

He said that non-compliant entities were yet to submit their monthly procurement reports as required by law, while some had centralised their procurement processes instead of decentralising them.

The Vimbai Nyemba-led Praz board, however, sent Chizu on forced leave soon after his appearance in parliament, before extending the leave in August and finally terminating his contract in January.

This has stalled the corruption investigation by Zacc against Matanga as well as the prosecution of former Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority chief executive officer Josh Chifamba.

Matanga is facing allegations of unprocedurally purchasing vehicles meant for the police.
Chifamba was arrested in 2018 in connection with alleged underhand dealings amounting to US$35 million, which involved an Indian company, PME.

He was arraigned alongside former Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company managing director Julian Chinembiri and former finance director Thokozani Dhliwayo. The matter is pending in court.

Zacc believes Chizu is critical in the Matanga investigation, among others, while the National Prosecuting Authority thinks he would be key in the prosecution of several corruption cases as the chief state witness.

However, in a letter dated 9 December 2020, addressed to Nyemba and copied to Zacc chairperson Justice Loyce Matanda-Moyo, Prosecutor-General Kumbirai Hodzi, Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Misheck Sibanda and Deputy Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Martin Rushwaya, Chizu said he was unable to assist in investigations and prosecutions without accessing vital documents at Praz.

“I have received requests from Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission to complete the compilation of a statement of procedure on the procurement by Ministry of Home Affairs of an assortment of 788 vehicles. Zacc also requires that I submit statements on cases that were committed during my tenure,” Chizu wrote.

“The National Prosecuting Authority has been issuing notices for appearance as chief state witness on various cases, including the one between the state and the Zesa chief executive officer, which was postponed because of the leave of absence on 26th July 2020.I have also heard from other quarters that parliament is intending to invite me to give evidence on public procurement on issues that happened during my tenure.My testimony on the statements, evidence to Parliament Portfolio Committees and courts is heavily based on various documentation and records which are in the custody of Praz.

“As you are aware, I am no longer the Chief Executive Officer of Praz and as such, can no longer access the said documents for compilation of statements to Zacc, giving oral evidence to parliament and giving witness-based evidence in courts.”

The former Praz boss said he was “willing and ready” to assist in fighting the scourge of corruption in public procurement processes.

“Your urgent response shall be greatly appreciated so that I am not viewed as an object against the course of justice,” Chizu wrote.

Zacc has been coming under growing pressure internally and externally to deal with the corruption complaints without fear or favour against high-profile persons amid worries that selective investigations were denting its image and credibility.

Norton independent MP Temba Mliswa, a self-styled corruption buster who has for years been accused by British investor Paul Westwood of illegally grabbing his private enterprise and its assets, in November last year wrote to Zacc demanding the anti-graft body investigate Matanga on a series of allegations, including flouting tender procedures through the purchase of luxury cars for senior officers.
Zacc commissioners last month told The NewsHawks that the Matanga case was moving, but complicated by politics.

Mliswa recently escalated his fight against Matanga by writing to the Auditor-General requesting an urgent forensic audit of the law enforcement agency’s financial affairs.

According to a letter seen by The NewsHawks, Mliswa wants Auditor-General Mildred Chiri to go through the police financial books to ascertain whether or not there have been irregular transactions.

“In my mandated role of legislation, representation and oversight and in the context of national interest, I hereby lodge an official request for a widescale forensic audit to be conducted at the Zimbabwe Republic Police for the period 2017 to present day,” wrote Mliswa in a letter dated 5 November 2020.

“This request for investigation is premised on the overwhelming evidence as received both orally and in writing of numerous alleged irregularities, cases of corruption and abuse of office said to have been perpetrated by Commissioner-General G.T. Matanga in cahoots with other senior officers.

“Some of the matters are as listed, but not limited to, the official report I made to the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission of which you are in copy and had said correspondence delivered to you.”
Mliswa said he was ready to assist with evidence during the forensic audit.

“My assertions are not unfounded, and I am willing and able to assist with any evidence and leads as and when they may be requested. Sometime in December 2019, CG Matanga, in the company of his chief staff officer, transport and logistics, commissioner Hlabiso, is alleged to have paid a visit to Croco Motors with the intent to purchase eighty (80) operations vehicles without following due tender process and procedure,” Mliswa wrote in a letter dated 22 October.

“In his personal capacity, CG Matanga is then alleged to have instructed Croco Motors to clear the eighty (80) vehicles on customs clearance certificates under the Zimbabwe Republic Police. Matanga is further alleged to have instructed Croco Motors to brand the aforementioned vehicles in the police colours ready for collection.” – News Hawks