By Staff Reporter
A fresh scandal is brewing at the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) after revelations that another former minister meddled in the compulsory pensions body’s affairs resulting in heavy financial losses.
Former Environment minister Prisca Mupfumira is languishing in remand prison after a government-sanctioned audit revealed that she allegedly siphoned over US$95 million from NSSA.
According to documents made available to The Standard, Petronella Kagonye, who was appointed Labour minister after former president Robert Mugabe was toppled in a coup in 2017 and served until last year, demanded two cars from NSSA for her personal use.
Kagonye is accused of meddling in the affairs of NSSA and forcing the cancellation of agreements that caused losses of over $40 million.
She was allocated a Mazda BT50 (registration ADA3513) and Jeep (registration ADF1813) following her appointment.
That was after the permanent secretary in her ministry, Ngoni Masoka, wrote to NSSA ordering it to buy an SUV vehicle or twin-cab for Kagonye until the ministry secured one for her.
”The ministry is kindly requesting for a SUV or double-cab to be used by Honourable Petronella Kagonye until the ministry secures a vehicle from CMED,” Masoka wrote in a letter dated December 4, 2017.
In another letter, Masoka requested $66 000 from Nssa for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities celebrations in Caledonia where President Emmerson Mnangagwa was scheduled to officiate. Caledonia is in Kagonye’s former constituency
The money was for T-shirts, lunch (two-piece chicken and chips), Jah Prayzah’s live performance, and paying the director of ceremonies, among other items.
The request was made on March 21, 2018 when Elizabeth Chitiga was still the NSSA CEO.
Kagonye initially instructed NSSA to pay US$200 000 for the Caledonia disability conference held in her constituency, but later reduced it to US$66 000 due to resistance from the authority’s management.
In March 2018 just three months before the elections, she also wanted NSSA to make a similar donation to a school in Ruwa, again in her constituency.
The documents also show that Kagonye instructed an immediate moratorium on NSSA investments, forcing the authority to accumulate a huge cash balance around May 2018.
Kagonye then instructed NSSA to give the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe US$60 million in cash before the July 2018 elections in exchange for Treasury Bills. Insiders now fear that NSSA will lose out in the deal after Zimbabwe abandoned the multi-currency regime in June.
The value of the local currency has been falling rapidly against the United States dollar.
During Kagonye’s tenure, NSSA was also forced to pay US$10 million in annual fees to an information technology solutions provider even after the authority’s own investigations done in five African countries showed that the fees could actually be as low as US$250 000.
The contract with the service provider was terminated by NSSA under Robin Vela, but it was reinstated soon after he was fired.
During Kagonye’s tenure, the ministry also meddled in the appointment of staff at NSSA, it has been revealed.
Masoka wrote to Chitiga on February 19 ordering that one Lameck Danga should be appointed ahead of Gift Shoko because he had been with NSSA since its inception.
“As per our telecom, I have now received a copy of the letter from the permanent secretary directing that we appoint Lameck Danga to the post of MD in spite of the adverse report from the two consultants and the final board interview wherein eight out of nine board members recommended Gift Shoko,” Douglas Zimbago, the former NSSA board chair, said in a letter to Chitiga on February 19.
Zimbango said he had problems with the directive, but could not resist.
He said it should be on record that the appointment was not done by the board.
Zimbago said there were several things he wished had been done differently, especially in the areas of project management.
Masoka wrote most of the letters where the ministry issued directives to NSSA during Kagonye’s tenure.
Kagonye was not available for comment.