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HomeNewsBuhera’s Mysterious House Used By Over 1000 COVID-19 Relief Beneficiaries Unmasked

Buhera’s Mysterious House Used By Over 1000 COVID-19 Relief Beneficiaries Unmasked

The Buhera house which raised eyebrows after it was used as a residential address by over 1000 individuals for purposes of receiving COVID-19 relief grants has turned out to be a seven-roomed government property occupied by only five people at the time the heist was exposed.

A month-long investigation by 263Chat that included traveling to Buhera, Manicaland unearthed the grand scam involving the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare and mobile network operator, NetOne which was tasked to disburse the funds to beneficiaries.

After the government set aside the ZWL89 million fund, parliamentarians, church leaders and traditional leaders were tasked to compile a list of beneficiaries but investigations showed that political heavyweights clandestinely facilitated the registration of their party supporters and falsifying information.

The house in question whose address is Number 11 Murambinda, is a Government owned seven roomed apartment, that was at the time occupied by a woman identified as Mrs Ruzani stationed at the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education Buhera district offices.

Ruzani was sharing the house with an unidentified co-occupant, before she relocated a few months ago.

Auditor General, Mildred Chiri, confirmed the house address to 263Chat at the beginning of the investigation, when she was asked about the authenticity of the house which was used by the 1 107 beneficiaries to collect Covid-19 relief funds. 

The 1 1 07 applicants were paid the allowances on the basis of proof of residence they provided in their application for the funds.

A total of five people occupied the house during the time Covid-19 disbursements were done by the government and NetOne. This revelation shows the high levels of corruption associated with utilisation of Covid-19 resources in Zimbabwe.

The Bureha house used by 1107 people to get Covid19 relief funds

A visit to the house by 263Chat last week revealed that there is only one person now occupying the seven roomed house, with most of the rooms vacant save for one which was curtained.

“I don’t know anything about the previous occupants of this house, I am still new at this place, this is my third week here. What I can only say is there was a woman who used to stay here with his three sons,” said the man who refused to identify himself to the 263Chat news crew.

In interviews with 263Chat, neighbours who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they knew Ruzani and her three sons as the occupants of the house, together with another elderly man whom they have not been seeing of late.

One neighbor claimed Ruzani was now working for a non-governmental organisation based In Buhera. However, efforts to contact her for details on the matter were fruitless by the time of going to press.

According to sources interviewed by 263Chat in Buhera, Mrs Ruzani used to stay at this house with her three sons using half of the space at the seven roomed apartment before she relocated a few months ago. The unidentified co-occupant at the house occupied the remaining rooms in the house.

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The house in question does not have the capacity to accommodate more than twenty people and not to mention the over one thousand people who are said to have been occupants of the house at the time.

The government owned white painted house with red bricks at the front looked deserted when the 263 Chat visited the house and the worn-down fence provided little or no security for the dusty Silver Peugeot, in the compound.

The new occupant at the house who was alone when 263Chat visited refused to provide details on how the house came to be used as proof of residence to the over one thousand ‘alleged occupants.’

According to the Auditor General’s 2021 report, ZWL$201 900 COVID-19 allowances processed in July 2020 for 673 beneficiaries from Buhera residential address in question had not been collected from Buhera District Social Welfare offices.

“The same address was used for 1 107 beneficiaries which made it difficult to contact beneficiaries and this was in violation of section 62 (3) of the Public Finance Management (Treasury Instructions), 2019 which requires the Accounting Officer to institute internal controls that verify that the beneficiary details on the source document are the same as those to be paid.”

Buhera West Member of Parliament, Hon Soul Nzuma however said the disbursement of Covid-19 funds was transparent and there was nothing amiss in the whole process.

“The process was transparent because it was done by civil servants. Civil servants are different from us politicians they do their things in a professional way. If you want more information, contact Mr Chirinda from social welfare,” said Nzuma 

Speaking before the parliamentary portfolio committee on Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Permanent Secretary, Simone Masanga, admitted the Covid-19 monthly cushioning allowance programmer failed to produce the intended impact.

“Please note at the same time we were given another assignment to run quarantine centres throughout the country. The same officers and accountants were also processing payments for food for the returning residents who had to be quarantined for 21 days. The ministry was also scaling up its traditional programmes such as Harmonised Social Cash Transfers, Food Deficit Mitigation Strategy, AMTOS (Social Welfare Public Assistance Programme), pauper burials, rounding up of children and adults living in the streets and dealing with rising cases of child abuse.

“Consequently, data for eligible beneficiaries was received from local authorities, small and medium enterprises, vendor associations and other interest groups which amongst others included Child Protection Committee cadres, faith-based leaders and councillors,” he said.

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Masanga said although some data was collected, it was not reliable, given that it lacked correct contact details, with a sizeable number of beneficiaries having similar identity numbers and addresses.

 “A sizeable number of beneficiaries on the database had similar identity numbers and addresses and there was limited mobility for monitoring and evaluation, making it difficult to verify if allowances were being paid to deserving beneficiaries.”

Masanga said a special audit report of the Auditor-General on the Covid-19 pandemic financial management and utilisation of public resources in the country’s provinces by ministries and state agencies had highlighted a number of red flags such as the failure to access the allowances by rightful beneficiaries, inadequate record keeping, unreliable databases and duplicate payments to beneficiaries.

However, he sad his ministry does not have the capacity to do an internal audit due to unavailability of funds.

“It’s not possible, you know in auditing you require to go to the 65 district offices and all I was saying yes, physically it’s possible, but financially very impossible. The funding we have is inadequate.

“We have an operational budget, but most of my funding is directed towards programmes. The administrative budget is very thin and the auditors are supported by the administration budget. Verification is necessary, but it’s now the cost of doing the verification versus the availability of funds,” Masanga said.

Public Accounts committee chairperson, Brian Dube, urged the Government to have a database that encompasses different clusters of people.

“The Ministry of Social Services must have an authentic data base of people, which is segregated. Government must know its people, actual data on persons with disabilities, vendors, child-headed families, pensioners and then I times of needs, just work on disbursement.

“Government must know its people and in times of crisis, just activate data base and disburse resources. Government must never rely on temporary lists prepared by activists. During Covid-19 crisis, government relied on lists given by political party activists and this led to biased listing and falsified information and this must never happen again” said Dube

Resources amounting to $1 980 034 876 were disbursed to six Ministries, Departments and Agencies as at November 5, 2020 to fund important frontline work and public sector investment projects that included the provision of clean water, ablution facilities, quarantine and isolation services and other services necessary in the fight against COVID19.

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