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Gokwe town council officials in corruption storm

Gokwe town council officials are claiming travel and subsistence allowances for non-existent trips while middle and senior managers are milking the struggling local authority, investigations by the Centre for Innovation and Technology (CITE)  have revealed.

A total of 23 transactions recorded in the financial books of the local authority are now under probe by the Gokwe Central Investigations Department (CID) of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP).  The case is recorded under RRB number ER 05/2021.

The matter lifts the lid on cases of misappropriation of public funds that run into thousands of dollars.

Under voucher number EST VO 46, the local authority paid ZW$5 592 899.71 for gravel to an unidentified source but that product was never delivered and investigations show that the money was abused by senior managers at the local authority.

Three vouchers again show that the acting town secretary Joseph  Mandhlokuwa claimed travel and subsistence for trips to Harare that never took place.

Under voucher number RAT VO 39 he claimed ZW$18 932.00 while under voucher number RAT VO 938 he drained ZW$26 560 from the cash strapped local authority. Under another voucher number RAT VO 986, he claimed a total of ZW$ 20 184.00 for a non-existent trip to Harare.

Investigations by this publication also revealed that a company called Honeytar was paid various amounts of monies on 12 occasions for purposes of supplying refreshments but the order was never delivered. The total amount paid to the company was ZW$57 541.

The voucher numbers for the transactions are RAT 584, RAT 602, RAT 655, RAT 710, RAT 731, RAT 731, RAT 819, RAT 827, RAT 829, RAT 876, RAT 997, RAT 107, RAT 1014 and RAT 842.

Other T&S claims that were drawn from the council with no justification include a false trip to Kwekwe FBC bank where a finance department official claimed ZW$3 885.

Under voucher number RAT VO 852, the local authority paid ZW$23 017.00 for another fake trip to Harare purportedly to submit the council budget, a document that can be easily sent electronically.

A non-existent organisation called Shurugwi Directors Forum drew out a total of ZW$25 543 in a transaction that is listed as T&S in the council’s books.

The purpose of the said visit is not explained in the council’s books.  

On 12 August 2021, CITE gathered, that the CID Gokwe department wrote a letter to the local authority seeking clarification of other dubious transactions.

Part of the letter reads “… this office requests for records relating to the following; a) procurement and distribution of 9 cell phones issued on 4 July 2018; b) procurement of two laptops; c) procurement of Samsung Note 10 cellphone bought for Mr Kwirirai; d) Policy document contract relating to procurement and distribution of cellphones to senior and middle managers.”

The management has not provided satisfying answers to this request and the matter is pending.

Obert Chinhamo, the director of the Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa (ACT-SA) based in Kwekwe but with offices in 16 SADC countries said he is aware of corruption reports at the local authority.

He said it was sad that the cases were happening even after the dismissal of Mellania Mandeya, the former Gokwe town council secretary arrested by the Zimbabwe Anti Corruption Commission (ZACC) in early 2018 over a slew of corruption charges. Her case is dragging at the courts.

“We are fully aware that even after the dismissal of Mandeya, corruption remains a problem at Gokwe town council. We are calling upon relevant authorities including ZACC to investigate and take action against the outstanding corruption issues,” said Chinhamo.

He said his organisation had received another report that Gokwe town council disbursed money to buy sand in Harare yet the local authority is within the vicinity of abundant types of soils from surrounding rivers and open land.

“We heard about that allegation. Heads must roll at Gokwe town council and people must be arrested because we need zero-tolerance against corruption. Action must be taken without fear and favour against the corruption,” said Chinhamo.

He added: “The Gokwe situation is a microcosm of a much bigger crisis rocking local authorities in the country.  Other cities like kwekwe and Redcliff have similar cases that must be investigated.”

Gokwe Residents Association chairman Joseph  Mhangani confirmed that his organisation was aware of corruption at the local authority. He said what is saddening is that the police and officials at ZACC are not doing enough to solve the cases.

“We reported the cases long back to the police CID department and ZACC. What is saddening is that the cases have not been acted upon. Even the case of Mandeya the former town secretary is yet to be tried at the courts two years after her first appearance. As residents we feel justice is being delayed and denied for us,” he said.

Inspector Emmanuel Mahoko, the Midlands police provincial spokesperson confirmed that the cops were investigating the Gokwe town council.

“We confirm that we have that case. What I can say is that investigations are still underway. We will be able to offer additional information when we finish our investigations,” he said.

Mahoko denied that police officers at Gokwe CID were trying to sweep the matter under the carpet.

“That is not true. We do not sweep any matters under the carpet. What I am saying is that investigations are still underway,” he said.

Acting Gokwe town secretary Madhlokuwa refused to comment.

“I can’t speak on behalf of the council at this stage. I am out of the office. The best person to contact will be Mr Nyandoro. Please talk to him on anything concerning council,” he said.

Alexander Nyandoro is the Chief Administration Officer at Gokwe town council.

When contacted for comment, Nyandoro said he did not respond to media inquiries on voice calls and preferred written questions.

Written questions were sent to him. He responded.

In his written responses, Nyandoro said: “I hereby respond as follows: (In terms of) T and S for non –existent trips and ( that council) paid for refreshments that were never delivered- (My response is ) I am not aware of such aberrations.

Nyandoro, however, could not deny or admit that the Gokwe council purchased sand in Harare.

In his response to that enquiry, he said: “All procurement is conducted in terms of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act (Chapter 22:23). Tenders are awarded to the cheapest bidder to specifications.”

John Makamure, the ZACC spokesperson said the body was gathering solid evidence to put together a docket for corruption cases at the Gokwe town council.

“When we get a report our investigators may take months to compile evidence so to an ordinary person it might appear we are taking too long. However, our mission will be that of trying to come up with a water-tight case. So yes for Gokwe residents they must be assured we are working on the case. We don’t throw away matters,” he said.

In October 2019, ACT-SA released a dossier detailing corruption at Gokwe Town House. 

In the report, ‘The State of Corruption, Service Delivery and Maladministration at Gokwe Town House’, the then town secretary Mandeya was reported to be unqualified for the position she held.

“It is alleged that the current Town Secretary was offered the position regardless of having come fourth in the interviews and not having the required qualifications. Before the interview, the panel was allegedly coached by the then council chairperson to give marks to Melania Mandeya,” ACT-SA revealed.

“Furthermore, the incumbent did not apply for the post during the first round of applications and the post had to be re-advertised to accommodate her application.”

The report further said some powerful individuals at the Local Government Ministry facilitated Mandeya’s employment and before she even commenced work, Mandeya received a salary and associated allowances.

Mandeya was also accused of awarding tenders to cronies.
 
“It is alleged that tenders are sometimes awarded to family members, friends and compatriots. For instance, the tender for the supply of curtains to the Town House was awarded to a relative, whilst in May 2019, the tender for catering services of a bench-marking exercise was awarded to another relative,” the report read. 

The dossier further highlighted, “On or about 2011/2 the local authority paid US$23 000 for a brand new Nissan NP 300, which was never delivered to date.”

The report further highlighted that the council bought a Chevrolet vehicle for US$58 000, “where there were other bidders who had charged less. For instance, there was a bidder who had charged US$51 000. Considering financial constraints besetting the local authority, it would have saved $7 000.”

The report added that against council regulations, Mandeya had also grabbed two residential stands in Gokwe’s low-density area.

Mandeya was arrested on 30 January 2020 and the matter is pending at the courts. It is subjudice for her to offer a comment.

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