BUBI Rural District Council (RDC) chief executive officer, Dr Patson Mlilo, is under fire over US$4 500 that allegedly went missing from the council’s coffers.
Following the 2016 Auditor General’s report, which exposed the alleged fraud by 12 Bubi Rural District Council (RDC) workers, the Public Accounts Sub-Committee on local authorities, which is chaired by Zanu-PF legislator for Chegutu West constituency, Dexter Nduna, accused Dr Mlilo of shielding the concerned council workers.
During an oral evidence session held virtually last Friday, the committee noted that the Auditor General’s report indicated that the council (Bubi RDC) was acquiring some goods and services on cash basis.
However, workers were not remitting change from goods and services bought and an amount of US$4 558 disclosed as ‘staff debtors’ in the financial statements was in respect of non-remittance of change from cash purchases.
The sub-committee grilled Dr Mlilo over the missing funds and accused him of failure to treat and report the matter to the police as a criminal case after noting the discrepancies.
“Before you go to the cash purchases, I am going to read out the crimes that have been instigated by those cash purchases.
“The crimes and sentences under the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act [Chapter 9:23] under the following sections; Section 136 is fraud, Section 137 is forgery, Section 163 is computer related crime and Section 170 is bribery,” said Nduna.
“However, in your case, you could be falling under fraud, which is section 136.”
Citing Sections 169 and 174 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, he said the section deals with criminal abuse of duty of public officers while section 172 deals with ‘concealing a transaction from a principal and section 173, ‘concealing personal interests in a transaction.
Nduna said Section 178 deals with the obstruction of a public official in the quest of conducting their business.
“So, there is no dearth as it relates to criminalising the perpetrators of injustice. Be aware of these sections in the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act as you answer to that missing US$4 500,” he said.
“You want to also have in mind that the issue of collective bargaining agreement really does not speak to and about the pilferage and hemorrhage of the US$4 558 if at all what you are supposed to have done is go straight away to the police if you were not arrogant, responsible and the perpetrator of that injustice. So, answer to that with all that in mind.”
In his response, Dr Mlilo said the cash purchases were occurring when council would withdraw money and give to officers’ travel and subsistence (T and S) allowance whenever they were going on council business.
“We would say when someone returns and they had not submitted support documents, then we would create the debtor file up to a time that we receive the support documents.
“It was not a one-off or by one person but it occurred over some time,” he said.
Nduna argued that instead of harbouring criminal elements through creation of a debtor list that could have been avoided by making a police report.
Another legislator and public accounts sub-committee member, Jacob Nyokanhete, said the T and S issue did not apply on goods and services.
“I need a clarification from Dr Mlilo because the Auditor General noted that the council was acquiring some huge goods and services on cash basis. However, employees were not remitting change from the purchase of goods and services and you are now telling us that it was T and S. This is purchase of goods. How is it related to T and S?” he queried.
The legislators warned Dr Mlilo against prevaricating and present documents that are of a perjury nature before the committee.
Dr Mlilo claimed all the debt had been repaid by the implicated employees.
“Cash purchases were done by officers and we gave them travel and subsistence (allowances). We disciplined those who were doing criminal activities,” he said.
Responding to questions from Business Chronicle, Nduna said theft and corruption in local authorities has gone unchecked for far too long.
“It’s time the law takes its course even if it means all CEOs and heads of local authorities going to jail for theft because the law provides for that and are meant to cure the delinquent behaviour and stop further financial hemorrhage in local authorities,” he said.
Out of 59 issues reported by the Auditor General, Nduna said 34 relate to governance and 25 relate to delinquent revenue collection, employment cost, procurement and service delivery.
“What it means is that for a very long-time local authorities haven’t been taking the AG’s report seriously and the sub-committee does recommend that the law enforcement agents move in and effect arrests,” he said.
“Zacc is now part of the new look Public Accounts Committee on local government subcommittee open sessions including other law enforcement agents rendering expeditious responses to criminal matters raised by the committee.”