Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Court hears how Nevers opened private bank account in Canada

Court hears how Nevers opened private bank account in Canada
By Namatama Mundia
Tue 26 Mar. 2013, 14:01 CAT

THE Lusaka Magis-trates' Court yesterday heard that a private bank account was opened at the Zambian High Commission in Canada during Nevers Mumba's tenure without the knowledge of other staff.

And the court also heard that Mumba, the MMD leader, received a donation of 122, 229.85 Canadian dollars from a private company Barrick Gold Corporation for a cultural exchange programme.

This is in a case where Mumba is charged with failure to comply with applicable procedure relating to management of public funds and three counts of abuse of authority of office contrary to the Laws of Zambia.
Mumba is alleged to have willfully failed to comply with applicable procedure relating to management of public funds contrary to section 33(2)(b) of the repealed Anti Corruption Act No. 38 of 2010.

It is alleged that Mumba between June 1, 2011 and December 31, 2011 at the Zambian High Commission in Canada, being a person whose functions concerned the use of public revenue, willfully failed to comply with laid down procedures in receiving and disbursing CAD$122,229.85, a donation to the Zambian government by a private company called Barrick Gold Corporation.

It is alleged further that Mumba, between October 1, 2009 and December 31, 2010 being a person employed in the public service, abused his authority of office by awarding contracts valued at CAD$9,000, CAD$19,850 CAD$5,248 for electrical works, carpeting and construction of a deck at the Zambian High Commission residence in Canada to three Canadian private companies Restcon Construction Services, Argos Carpet Limited and Stanmark Construction respectively without following laid down procedure.

Testifying after trial commenced before chief resident magistrate Joshua Banda, former Canadian deputy high commissioner Nedson Nzowa, 52, of Makeni said that in December 2011, officers from the government joint investigations went to the mission and interviewed workers there.
He said he was asked to explain the cultural exchange programme and he explained that the mission had a strategic planning meeting which discussed, among the issues, the cultural exchange programme.

Nzowa said he told the officers that Mumba told him to work closely with mission liaison officer Carolina Rodrigus and one Bridget to make efforts to get a venue for the cultural exchange programme and that all venues asked for a deposit before any negotiations.

He said Mumba called him to his office and told him that they were not making any headway because the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had not sent any money and that if they delayed, a donor would be found.

Nzowa said he advised Mumba that any donation would further delay the programme because approval from the ministry was needed because the accounts were audited and that auditors would query where the money came from.

He said after some days, first secretary for accounts Emma Hamweetwa consulted him after Mumba asked her how an account that could not be audited could be opened.

Nzowa told the court that he told Hamweetwa that it was not possible because accounts were audited and if they had to open one, they needed approval from the ministry.

He said he had also briefed Mumba that owners of the venues that had been found needed a deposit, saying the MMD leader told him to leave the matter to him.

Nzowa said the cultural exchange programme was held on October 24.
And Nzowa said that in December 2011, both he and Mumba were recalled but that he was asked to sit in until the new high commissioner reported.

He said after Mumba had left, Carolina went to his office to consult him after two people called her and asked for a file on the cultural exchange programme.

Nzowa said the two, Dr Joseph Daka and Marble Chipasha, stood on the other side of the embassy.

He said he was shocked because he did not know there was a file kept by one of the local staff and he was also shocked that unauthorised individuals could ask for documents from the embassy, saying it was irregular.

Nzowa added that he told Carolina to ask the two people to see him so that they could explain why they needed the file but that they never showed up.

"I decided to go through the file to investigate what they were looking for. Most things I found there were surprising. I was number two from Dr Mumba but most of the things I saw on the file, I had not seen them before," he said.

Nzowa further said he discovered that Mumba had received CAD$122,229.85 and he called Hamweetwa to find out if they had received money in the mission account but she responded in the negative.

"I also discovered that there was a private account opened for that money. I saw on the file that there was payment vouchers designed for that activity which were different from normal payment vouchers from government," he said.

Nzowa said it was highly irregular for a mission to open an account without his knowledge and Hamweetwa's because approval was needed.
He said he was surprised that Dr Daka and Chipasha, who had earlier asked for the file, were also signatories to the private account.
Nzowa produced two copies of transmission of money in the amounts of CAD$41,500 and CAD$80,729.85 respectively to the private account.

He said the transaction of the money to the private account was done without the knowledge of any diplomatic staff, adding that that donation was to the government.

Nzowa said the investigators interviewed all the members of staff on the issue and they collected files.

He said the officers showed him a batch of documents from Barrick Gold by officer Desmond Chibola but he told the investigators he knew nothing about them.

Nzowa said the other investigators were a Mr Mukelebai and a Mr Kanganja.

And Nzowa told the court that he wrote to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, recommending that Argos Carpeting be awarded a contract to renovate the residence at 9 Mission Inn Grove because it was found to be a reputable company which competed favourably with Feel Flooring Limited and Brookside.

He said the mission never received response until he was shown a letter from the ministry, where they had instead approved Brookside and the investigator queried why the ministry's advice was ignored.
Nzowa also said he had advised Mumba against involving his spouse in the quotations.

Most of the quotations produced had Mumba's wife's name Florence on attention.

Nzowa said he was also interviewed on the electrical works done at the residence.

Meanwhile, earlier when the matter was called, Mumba's lawyer Mekebi Zulu applied that justice minister Wynter Kabimba be summoned before court to show cause why he should not be cited for contempt of court in view of an article which appeared in The Post newspaper dated March 7, where he commented on Mumba's case, which is still in court.
But the state said it needed time to respond to the application.
The matter comes up today for continued hearing.



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