Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Head of Zimbabwe electricity supply authority faces corruption allegations

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Zesa (Zimbabwe electricity supply authority) Holdings board will be conducting a thorough investigation into its executive chairman, Dr Sydney Gata, after allegations surfaced that he may have allocated for his personal use five company vehicles, scuttled the disciplinary hearing of a top executive, spent $10 million on Christmas parties, sent four consultants to South Africa, and set up a trust to mine gold.

Energy and Power Development Minister Advocate Fortune Chasi described the corruption allegations as “indeed egregious and very worrying” and called for a thorough board investigation.

The Zesa boss — who has had an on-off romance with the company — yesterday denied the allegations.

“We have received the allegations and it’s not true. I am not involved in any of those issues.”

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But Adv Chasi said the accusations deserved a thorough investigation.

“This case will be good test case as to the spinefullness of the (Zesa) board. Government expects no less than adequate action that is in line with the seriousness of the matter in question. The board’s speed of action must reflect the urgency and seriousness of the matter.”

Adv Chasi said the Government’s attitude towards corruption was clear as pronounced by President Mnangagwa that any corrupt activities must be investigated and dealt with decisively.

“Additionally, we expect that a proper investigation be carried out and that the outcomes of such investigation shall inform the requisite action by the board. The importance, actual or imagined, of an alleged perpetrator is completely irrelevant to the inquiry and the corrective action to be taken in the circumstances,” he said.

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It is alleged that on 14 January 2020 Dr Gata usurped powers of a disciplinary committee investigating Zesa acting group chief executive officer Mrs Norah Tsomondo.

She had been brought before the disciplinary authority to answer allegations of unauthorised expenditure of US$20 million in 2018.

On January 14 2020, Dr Gata allegedly wrote to the disciplinary authority secretary Mr Garikai Churu directing the committee to withdraw action against Mrs Tsomondo. In part the alleged letter reads: “Reference is made to the above matter and to the meeting held on January 14, 2020, in my office attended by the acting group chief executive officer, Mrs Tsomondo, and which you were later on invited to attend.

“I am directing you to discontinue the disciplinary hearing of Mrs N Tsomondo with immediate effect. Kindly advise the disciplinary authority members accordingly.”

On vehicles, it is alleged that after Dr Gata was allocated his official car, a Mercedes Benz (ADY 9279), he also personalised two Toyota Fortuner vehicles and three Madza BT50s. It is alleged that the parastatal splashed over $10 million in December parties in Hwange and Kariba. Dr Gata denied hosting any lavish party, saying it was the public relations department that organised the end of year events in December last year.

There are also questions surrounding the engagement of Mr Peter Mutsinya, Mr Shumani Mhlanga, Mr Muvengwa Zinyuku and Mr Johatt Sithole who were flown to South Africa for a study tour at Eskom at Zesa’s cost.

Dr Gata wrote to Energy and Power Development Permanent Secretary Dr Gloria Magorimbo on March 11, 2020, seeking Cabinet authority for the clearance of the four consultants to travel to South Africa.

Consequently, for the four-day trip, Zesa paid $107 913, the equivalent of US$5 876, for the consultants’ airfares and allowances.

Questions were also raised over the creation of the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Industry Trust (ZESIT), which is set to undertake several projects including the Tuli Mining Project and gold mining at Munyati. Dr Gata explained that ZESIT will be officially launched this week and there was nothing sinister about the entity.

The Herald understands that an investigation will be conducted into Zesa’s proposed partnerships with Korean firms for manufacturing concrete poles for electrification.

The Zesa boss was appointed as the executive chairman in November 2019 but labour experts have questioned why Dr Gata had been given an executive post as the Public Entities Corporate Governance Act did not provide for an executive chair of a parastatal but has board members separate from executive management.

Dr Gata was once the Zesa Holdings executive and left in 2006 amid several allegations, chief among them being a 2003 fight with trustees of the Zesa pension fund over an alleged illegal withdrawal of $1,6 billion from the fund to finance the payment of retrenchment costs. Dr Gata denied the allegations.

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There were also concerns around Zesa’s unbundling under his watch and alleged failure to ring fence finances of subsidiaries. One of his duties in his present term is to rebundle Zesa.

It is also during Dr Gata’s tenure at Zesa that the power utility signed several power deals with several companies, including one from Iran, but little was delivered on that front.

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