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Massive looting of Covid-19 relief funds exposed

The report exposes how millions of dollars from the Public and Social Welfare ministry for the Covid-19 fight could not be accounted for, with eligible beneficiaries also not receiving any support owing to the plunder.

BY NQOBANI NDLOVU A parliamentary report has exposed massive graft, looting and diversion of material and financial resources worth several millions of dollars earmarked for the Covid-19 fight.

The Brian Dube chaired public accounts committee recommended the arrest and prosecution of officials implicated in the plunder of Covid-19 funds and resources in its report presented to Parliament in May.

The report exposes how millions of dollars from the Public and Social Welfare ministry for the Covid-19 fight could not be accounted for, with eligible beneficiaries also not receiving any support owing to the plunder.

“The distribution mechanism of the Covid 19 allowances was in shambles leaving the process open to abuse,” the report reads in part.

“The Zimbabwe Republic Police and Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission should institute investigations on the issue of duplicate beneficiaries with a view to prosecuting those guilty of any wrongdoing within 180 days of tabling this report.”

The vulnerable, aged and orphans among others on the social welfare list including vendors were set to receive Covid-19 relief funds under a $600 million cash transfer programme in 2020 when the first lockdown was announced.

They were meant to receive the money through the state owned Net-One mobile telecommunications company’s OneMoney.

Reports at the time said each beneficiary was meant to receive about $300, then enough to buy a bag of mealie meal.

“The Mutare district social welfare office database, which was submitted to the head office for payment of allowances had the following anomalies: 58 beneficiaries who received Covid-19 allowances amounting to $45 240, had similar identity numbers, different dates of birth and of a different gender,” the report reads.

“375 beneficiaries had uncontactable addresses and ID numbers quoted which did not exist as confirmed with the RG’s Office.

“These beneficiaries received Covid-19 allowances amounting to $292 500.”

It adds: “The Manicaland provincial social welfare officer could not provide to the auditor general with a consolidated report and copies of confirmation of receipt of the $3 959 950 Covid-19 allowances disbursed by head office and paid to 18 349 beneficiaries in the province.”

The committee also raised a red flag over questionable disbursements of travel allowances to inmates when they left quarantine centres.

“Mushagashe Quarantine Centre did not avail payment schedules to support bus fares amounting to $42 930 paid to inmates that were leaving the centre.

“A schedule showing payments amounting to $18 300 for twenty-seven (27) inmates at Mushagashe Quarantine Centre revealed that the inmates received the bus fares on September 10, 2020,” the report said.

“However, the admissions and discharge register indicated that the inmates were discharged on September 22, 2020, 13 days after payment date.

“Out of a total amount of $597 460 paid, inmates whose bus fare payments amounted to $516 370 did not sign the acquittal forms at Mushagashe Quarantine Centre as proof that they had received the amounts indicated.”

In Midlands, the report exposed how the Gweru infectious diseases hospital remained unsuitable to handle Covid-19 cases after funds were either diverted, or not utilised.

“The auditor-general (AG) observed that funds amounting to $581 945 were disbursed for refurbishment of Gweru Infectious Diseases Hospital through the Municipality of Gweru in order to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 disease.

“AG’s concern was that these funds were redirected to refurbish Mkoba 1 Clinic and there were no supporting documents and progress reports to support usage of the funds.

“Consequently, the hospital remained not fully equipped thereby rendering it unsuitable to fight the Covid-19 pandemic,” the report reads.

“The auditor-general further observed that out of funds totalling $4 600 000 disbursed for refurbishment of Gweru Infectious Diseases Hospital, an amount of $1 305 681 was still unused.”

In 2020, President Emmerson Mnangagwa fired Health and Child Care minister Obadiah Moyo after he was charged with criminal abuse of office over the awarding of a $60m contract to a company that allegedly sold supplies to the government at inflated prices.

According to court papers, Moyo allegedly awarded a multimillion tender to Drax International LLC, headquartered in the United Arab Emirates, which was concluded without the consent of the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe.

A representative of Drax was named as Delish Nguwaya who has been reported as having links to the first family.

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