news in depth:BY EVERSON MUSHAVA
The troubled National Social Security Authority (NSSA) is headed for more turmoil after the new Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister Paul Mavhima asked the State-controlled pension scheme’s board members to submit their curriculum vitaes amid fears of a purge.
Curthbert Chidoori’s board has been accused of turning things upside-down at NSSA as it tried to impose a management that was loyal to former Public Service minister Sekai Nzenza.
Mavhima demanded the CVs soon after his appointment on November 8 following a cabinet reshuffle and the board members were expected to have submitted them by Monday last week, insiders have revealed.
“The minister asked them to submit their CVs and contracts on Monday afternoon,” a source said.
Chidoori did not respond to questions, but insiders said Mavhima’s intervention came at a time when the board chairperson was allegedly making manoeuvres to replace acting NSSA general manager David Makwara with a fellow board member, Auther Manase.
Makwara had allegedly been forced to produce a handover report before Nzenza was shunted into the Industry minister during the cabinet reshuffle.
Chidoori is said to have set up a permanent base at the NSSA headquarters in Harare where he is said to be working from almost on a daily basis.
Makwara was one of the few managers, who were not sent on forced leave alongside 24 executives, who were allegedly implicated in corruption cases during a forensic audit by BDO Zimbabwe Chartered Accountants.
Sixteen of the managers have since returned to work after they were allegedly cleared of any wrong doing.
On Friday, Chidoori met the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions to discuss the $1,8 million that his board paid to lawyers to peruse the BDO report.
Chidoori was also said to be desperate to keep the controversial appointment of Whisper Rukanda from MorniPac International and MorniPac Digital Forensics, to do an information communication technology health check on NSSA.
The appointment was done by Nzenza, according to a letter she wrote to Makwara dated December 19, 2018 and is in this publication’s possession.
The appointment was done before the request of a quotation from the same company on December 27, 2018.
“I hereby appoint Dr Whisper Rukanda (PCFE. CFA. CPM. CDFE. LPT), the chief executive officer of MorniPac International and MorniPac Digital Forensics as an ICT expert to conduct a health checks in the systems at NSSA,”Nzenza wrote to Makwara on December 18, seven days before a request for a quotation for the same project was made.
Chidoori defended the deal that saw Rukanda revise his charge to US$5 000 from US$50 000 after some NSSA managers raised a red flag over the appointment. The managers wanted the contract to be put to tender.
Several other companies rejected the offer, demanding a tender process to avoid being dragged into corruption allegations.
Chidoori’s board was appointed by Nzenza in February this year after then NSSA chairperson Robin Vela was fired.
Vela and former Public Service minister Prisca Mupfumira were accused of causing NSSA financial prejudice running into millions of United States dollars.
Mupfumira was arrested for allegedly siphoning US$95 million from NSSA and is currently facing abuse of office charges in the courts.
On the other hand, Vela is challenging the BDO report in the High Court. Chidoori’s board blames the rot at NSSA on Vela and his former management team.
Vela, however, hit back last week after Chidoori was quoted in the media saying his predecessor’s board engaged Twenty Third Century System (TTSC), a firm that was accused of bungling NSSA’s accounting system and causing prejudice worth thousands of dollars.
He also accused the previous board of many irregularities that allegedly crippled NSSA. Vela has since given Chidoori a 48-hour ultimatum to retract the statements.
“Your statements are grossly factually incorrect and laden with false and misleading allegations and claims deliberately intended to malign the good name of our client and the entire board that headed NSSA,” read part of a letter Vela wrote to Chidoori through his lawyers Chambati, Mataka and Makonese Attorneys.
“Our client is not aware of the ‘irregularities and criminal conduct’ and ‘questionable’ investments that you recklessly impute.”
Vela warned that he would take Chidoori to court if he did not withdraw the statements.
The TTSC deal was signed in 2013, long before Vela’s board was appointed in 2015, insiders said. It was the Vela board that cancelled the deal.
Chidoori has also been accused of misfiring after he said his board had strengthened NSSA’s balance sheet, by among other things carrying out offshore investments. He said one of the investments was with Afriximbank.
Insiders, however, said NSSA had a moratorium on investments imposed in February 2018 by former Labour minister Patronella Kagonye, hence Chidoori’s board could not have carried out the said investments.
The moratorium was only cancelled less than two months ago after the board realised that pension funds were losing value while locked in banks.
“The merger of FMH and NDI, increased equity position in CBZ, Fidelity, FBC, ZB, Seedco and the US$20m Afrexim investment offshore was done when Liz Chitiga was general manager, long before Chidoori was appointed,” the source said.
Vela yesterday accused Chidoori of lying about the investments.
“It is a plain lie…. he must be asked directly which investment his board has done? The answer is none,” he said.
“All the growth and balance sheet strength he claims comes from the Vela legacy.
“Transactions such as the merger of FMH & NDI, equity increases in CBZ, Fidelity and CFI; and the offshore investment in Afrexim — all were done by Vela.
“The Chidoori board has not done one single investment — that is a fact.”
Vela said he negotiated the Afreximbank deal with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe before Chidoori was appointed.
Meanwhile, BDO Zimbabwe’s parent company, BDO International, has distanced itself from the NSSA forensic audit.
Vela reported the Zimbabwe outfit to its parent company over what he said was an “evidently biased, politically-motivated and incompetent and incomplete forensic audit.”
“I refer to the letter of October 2019 addressed to the Global CEO of BDO International, Keith Farliber, attached to this email, which we read carefully,” part of BDO Belgium’s response to Vela reads.
“It is necessary to clarify that BDO is an international network of independent member firms, whereby neither BDO International Limited, nor BDO member firms, have any liability for the acts or omissions of a BDO member firm,” Caroline Gijsemans, head of legal affairs for the Belgian parent company wrote.
“Each independent BDO member firm autonomously provides professional services to clients and solely responsible for the quality of services provided.
“BDO International Limited has thus no involvement in the forensic work referred to in the letter and cannot accept any responsibility for it. If your client believes that the work of BDO Zimbabwe was not in accordance with the prevailing norms and standards, a related action should be addressed to the firm,”
She added: “We also explicitly reject your statement that BDO International would be liable on the basis that its international brand has lent professional credibility to the report of BDO Zimbabwe.
“The letterhead and website of BDO Zimbabwe, as well as publication and website of the BDO network make it very clear that BDO is a network of independent firms.”
Vela has already filed his head of arguments at the High Court in Zimbabwe challenging the BDO report, which he claimed was poorly done
The report has not been shown to the managers who have been put on forced leave on allegations that arose from the audit report.
Chidoori wants the managers to be hauled before disciplinary hearings.