Samuel Kadungure Senior Reporter
INVESTIGATIONS into the conduct of Rusape town secretary, Mr Solomon Gabaza, has opened a can of worms, with the investigating committee recommending his arrest on fraud and abuse of office charges, The Manica Post has established.
The committee’s report also recommends a forensic audit to dig into the housing, treasury and engineering departments as there are suspicions that Mr Gabaza was involved in murky deals there.
Local Government and Public Works, Minister July Moyo has since appointed a three-member team to investigate circumstances leading to Mr Gabaza’s forced leave and the validity of the allegations levelled against him.
The five-member committee — appointed by council in terms of Section 100 of the Urban Councils Act —included Councillors Peter Kwesha (chairperson) and Blessmore Pambureni, as well as Messers Maxwell Chiwanza, Wakina Cholomoni and Scriveni Marozva.
The committee tabled its report last Friday, which was subsequently adopted by a special full council.
On Tuesday, council chairman, Cllr Lyton Sithole took the report to the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works.
“The report is out and we presented the findings to the parent ministry on Tuesday. However, I cannot share with you what we discussed,” said Cllr Sithole.
Mr Gabaza is currently on three months forced leave with full benefits on allegations of abuse of office, financial misappropriation, maladministration, gross incompetence and gross insubordination, among other issues.
Part of the committee’s report reads: “The investigation committee found that most of the allegations levelled against the town secretary are credible and is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to charge him with serious acts of misconduct. “The committee therefore recommends that the town secretary be brought before a disciplinary hearing committee to account for conduct which is inconsistent with the discharge of his duties and that a report be made to the police and ZACC for all the criminal charges.”
Criminal charges against Mr Gabaza allegedly stem from abuse of office, including creation of stands without council resolution, allocation of stands unprocedurally, recruitment of staff against council laid down policies and without interviews.
The charges also include authorising building inspections and use of council equipment without payment. On the allocation of stands, Mr Gabaza is being accused of approving land allocations in Gopal In-fill, Mabvazuva Turn-Off, Silverbow In-fill and Crocodile In-fill in defiance of the Local Government Ministry’s Moratorium on Land Allocations.
Fraud charges allegedly stem from manipulation of council billing system, encashment of leave days and double dipping of fuel.
The committee also noted that the council’s recruitment procedure lacked consistency as there was rampant employment of unqualified people in strategic and key positions. “The town council must urgently conduct a skills audit to ensure that the right people with right qualifications are placed in the right positions.
The probe team also noted that council’s billing system was in shambles as it is being manned by unqualified personnel.
The system recently crushed, resulting in the treasury department failing to produce financial statements for 2019.
“To date, council books have not been audited and have not met the deadline set in the Urban Councils Act.” The committee also established that service delivery is poor in the town, with a tour of the Vengere 602 Hall and public toilets revealing a health time bomb.
The committee also noted alleged rampant abuse of fuel at the council.
“While it appears the treasury department is in control on the issuance and allocation of fuel, the town secretary had in fact moved the allocation of fuel to central administration, a department he heads. This has resulted in unauthorised persons accessing fuel, while some employees, especially the procurement manager, have been drawing excessive quantities.
“The procurement manager would draw fuel from the service station without any authorisation. Sometimes he would draw fuel twice a day. He also drew fuel using private vehicles. In total, the council lost 3 260 litres of fuel to non-council services during the period in question, and this only refers to redeemable coupons.”