Sunday, 10 July 2011 02:07 Top Stories
By Itai Mazire
POLICE have arrested five Ministry of Finance officials on allegations of fraud and criminal abuse of office after it emerged that they could have embarked on unsanctioned foreign trips while they also corruptly procured goods for use by the ministry.
Police sources said the first official to be arrested was a desk economist, Petronella Chishawa, who was picked up last Thursday on allegations of going on unsanctioned foreign trips which had seen her staying out of the country for a cumulative three months between December 2010 and May 2011.
Next to be arrested the same day was Linda Kembo (designation not given), who along with Chishawa is being charged with flouting tender procedures during the procurement of clothing material for use by the ministry.
Three more officials whose identities are still being withheld were arrested on Friday after Chishawa and Kembo reportedly implicated them in the shady dealings while police are also keen to interview a sixth official who is said to be out of the country on business.
Police could not be reached to comment on the issue yesterday, but sources in the force said the five were still in custody yesterday, adding that they were likely to appear in court for initial remand tomorrow.
Preliminary investigations by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) show that Chishawa, who is mired in a messy divorce and reportedly enjoys close links with Finance Minister Tendai Biti, spent one month in Swaziland between
December 2010 and January 2011 on undisclosed business. In February this year, she also spent four days in Sudan after which she spent three weeks in China between March and April.
In May and June, she reportedly spent six weeks in Tanzania where she was allegedly completing a master’s degree programme at Esami Training Institute.
All this time, Chishawa was reportedly drawing daily Government allowances at a special rate of at least US$500 per day.
Chishawa and Kembo are also being probed for allegedly defrauding the ministry over US$4 000 after they flouted tender procedures. It is alleged that on March 1, the pair approached one Sekai Manyepwa, a finance manager with Mick
Davies, a clothing retail shop, intending to purchase some uniforms for ushers for the Euro Money Conference hosted by the ministry a week later.
Chishawa and Kembo indicated that they needed to purchase clothes for 26 people, but the shop attendants said they did not have sufficient stocks.
The two ministry officials indicated that they would source the clothes from other stockists and, in turn, supply Mick Davies, who would then raise an invoice for the full consignment.
Chishawa and Kembo are said to have supplied the stocks in the
form of 26 shirts, 13 pairs of shoes, 20 pairs ladies shoes, 40 ladies blouses, 40 roll-ons, 10 men’s shirts, five pairs men’s shoes and five men’s roll-ons within a week.
The items were purchased by the finance ministry for a total of US$9 848 resulting in the ministry suffering a prejudice of US$4 628 which Chishawa and Kembo allegedly converted to their personal use.
On this count, the police will charge Chishawa and Kembo under Section 172 (1) (a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, Chapter 9:23 which deals with corruptly concealing a transaction from a principal.
Police have recorded statements from two Mick Davis employees, who are Mrs Manyepwa and Mr Lovejoy Kahungwa, who is the shop manager.
Mrs Manyepwa declined to comment on the issue yesterday while Mr Kahungwa’s mobile phone number was not reachable .-The Sunday Mail