BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
Zimbabwe’s research institute under the Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation Science and Development ministry has been rocked by reports of graft, maladministration and corporate misgovernance costing the parastatal millions.
Senior management at the National Biotechnology Authority of Zimbabwe (NBA) has been reported to the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc), the country’s prosecuting authority and the respective ministry over the reports.
Documents at hand show that there has been little movement resulting in the whistleblowers on June 30, 2021 writing to Zacc chairperson Justice Loice Matanda-Moyo checking progress on the investigations.
The NBA is an autonomous research and development institution with a mandate to develop Zimbabwe through the application of both conventional and cutting-edge bio-technologies.
It was established through the National Biotechnology Authority of Zimbabwe (NBA) Act of 2006.
“The management disposed of three passenger motor vehicles to them on the pretext that they were no longer serviceable.
“Their service condition in the contract of employment did not provide for that hence it was contrary to the provisions of Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act,” reads in part a letter dated February, 17, 2021 addressed the permanent secretary in the ministry Fanuel Tagwira.
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“The management uses pool cars and operational fuel to report for work whilst receiving monthly fuel coupons as transport allowance.
“The fuel register had some requests not signed against and not up to date hence subject to manipulation.
“The expenditure of the entity is not controlled by a budget.
“Expenditure is incurred on a discretionary basis, which may result in loss of key priorities. An effort to rectify this was fruitless.”
NBA’s major role is to transform the country from a raw material-based economy into a knowledge–based economy through the judicious application of biotechnology in agriculture, medicine, energy and the environment.
‘The entity has a full-fledged GMO testing laboratory with donated equipment lying idle.
“Surprisingly they subcontract Tobacco Research Board (TRB), which charges higher fees than we recover from our customers hence strain the budget,” the letter adds.
“At the end of year 2019 ZWL $400 000.00 was paid to TRB for the training of laboratory staff members and nothing was done.
“Reagents bought for the two laboratories expired without being used.
“The entity has been renting out its laboratory building to a Chinese company without corresponding revenue.
“The employees of that company were riding on the resources of the National Biotechnology Authority free of charge.”
Between 2019 and 2020, funds totaling $3.5 million received from the ministry and earmarked for the establishment of a plant to manufacture marula wine spirit from indigenous marula fruits trees in Mwenezi Masvingo and other farming activities in Marondera were reportedly squandered by management, the report adds.
“The funds ($2million) were squandered on claiming endless t & s allowances on the pretext of carrying out feasibility studies.
“When they (management) heard that Zacc was investigating them, they swiftly covered up the progress of the project by drilling a borehole and acquired a piece of land from the local authority,” the letter reveals.
“The parastatal sought funds on the pretext to embark on farming activities (in Marondera) during the year 2019 to 2020 rain season.
“ It is apparent that the project was initiated to siphon funds through claiming t & s allowances and later cover up as a failed project.
“In the same manner the rest of the funds were utilised on day to day activities of the entity not related to the project.”
In July 2020, Zacc instituted investigations at the research institution, and the case was subsequently brought to court for trial on March 13, 2021 but was never heard.
“The accused persons preferred with the charges were F Mtambanengwe, Dextor Tony Savadye, R Karimanzira, M Masocha, F Chatiza and GN Mahlangu. Elisha Moyo was a witness.
“The prosecutor was Mr Michael Reza.
“The prosecutor did not put the accused persons on remand neither the trial date was set till to date, for unknown reasons.
“This raises eyebrows of foul play “greasing hands” (corruption),” reads a letter dated April 2021, addressed to the National Prosecution Authority (NPA) deputy prosecutor general — operations.