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Govt Officials Abused Covid-19 Funds: Report

A report on how Covid-19 funds were used in Zimbabwe has revealed several irregularities, prompting parliament to conclude that government officials benefited from public funds meant for the vulnerable.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) recently presented a report on the Covid-19 Pandemic and Utilisation of Public Resources in parliament where legislators exposed abuse of funds by the government bureaucrats.

In one of the reported cases, an individual received funds meant for several people while some quarantine centres continued to receive money beyond their period of operation.

One unnamed company received more than US$9 million after it was paid three times for services which cost less.

Kambuzuma legislator, Willias Madzimure said it was necessary to know how much money was made available by Treasury and how much money was made available through donations.

“If there were donations, we know that whenever money is donated to government and meant to be used for public use it is recorded. There is a lot of money that was donated. There was a lot of equipment that was donated and this should have been accounted for. I know or suspect that it was recorded and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development should have made those records available.”

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Madzimure attributed the rot to parliament’s closure during the lockdown period as no oversight was done to public spending.

“There should not be any time when Parliament cannot assemble and do its work. I think that is the reason why we have such a damning report. If you look at that report, it tells you that it was free for all. Whoever wanted to benefit from this fund benefited, whoever wanted to enjoy himself benefited,” he said.

Even though Covid-19 was an emergency, Madzimure argued it was important to process funds accordingly.

“One company wrote down in the report was paid three times on one invoice and this was an amount that amounts to more than US$9 million. Just imagine you supply services that are worth probably US$400 000 and you are paid three times on that particular invoice … and there are no measures indicated in the report to say they are being taken for this particular company to pay back. Now the question is, who owns this company? It is not disclosed who owns that company and money must be paid back,” he added.

He questioned how the government was paying for services provided to a quarantine centre yet the number of people there was unknown.

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“If the Government was efficient enough, by now we could be hearing of people who are in Chikurubi because there are a lot of people who became so rich such that they are destroying hills in Chishawasha building their houses. We ask questions on where they got so much money when everybody else is suffering.”

Norton legislator, Temba Mliswa remarked that it was worrying how the country was ‘blinded” by corruption that it did not care about governance.

“It is like people are on a fast lane to just plunder resources, and the worst thing is to plunder resources that are meant for the public,” he said.

“This report is indicative of a system that has a head that has rotted, and everything below the head rots. The reason I am saying that is the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works is supposed to be the custodian for ensuring that systems are put in place to ensure that things that come through them are accounted for,” he added.

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