By Farirai Machivenyika
Executives from the Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (ZINARA) face contempt of Parliament charges after they refused to answer questions when they appeared before the Public Accounts Committee yesterday. The Zinara management team that appeared before the committee was comprised of acting chief executive Mrs Mathlene Mujokoro, finance director Mr Simon Taranhike and former human resources director Mr Precious Murove.
The questions arose from a forensic audit report produced by Grant Thornton Chartered Accountants after being commissioned by the Auditor-General, Mrs Mildred Chiri.
Mrs Mujokoro declined to answer the questions arguing they wanted to get a legal opinion on whether Parliament was empowered to deal with the report since Clause 6:1 of the audit report states that it (the report) was solely for the use by the AG and the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development.
Read the section: “This report has been produced solely for the use of the Auditor-General of Zimbabwe and the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development.
“It contains privileged information and should not be quoted in whole or in part without prior written consent. This report should therefore not be used for any other purposes.”
However, following deliberations, the chairperson of the committee, Mr Tendai Biti, said the conduct by the Zinara management was unacceptable.
“We find that conduct to be totally abominable, totally unacceptable, totally reprehensible. Parliament is an institution of the State which in terms of Section 119 of the Constitution has power of oversight over Government, over any institution in Zimbabwe,” he said
“This committee has a special power that it is given under Section 299 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe and it is the power to determine how public funds are used and how revenue is collected. So we consider your refusal to answer our questions as serious obstruction of the powers and functions of Parliament where we are discussing matters where there is serious evidence of abuse of public funds by Zinara.”
Mr Biti added that the committee felt that the conduct by Zinara management was a deliberate attempt to protect corruption but more unforgiving as an attempt to emasculate and muzzle the independence of Parliament.
He added that they would write to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Advocate Jacob Mudenda, for action to be taken.
“Subsection 4 of the Schedule to the Privileges and Immunities and Powers of Parliament Act states that it is a crime to refuse to answer any lawful and relevant question by Parliament or a committee.
“We are going therefore to write to Parliament through the Speaker of Parliament. We are going to make strong recommendations for sanctions and penalties against yourself (Mrs Mujokoro), against the finance director and the former director of administration and against Zinara,” he added.
The audit report highlighted rampant abuse of funds at the administration including awarding of contracts without going to tender, payments to companies that have not carried out any work while senior managers received allowances not provided for in their contracts.