FORMER Tourism Minister Priscah Mupfumira who is facing corruption charges related to the National Social Security (Nssa) scandal may not have committed any offence after all if emerging details are anything to go by.
According to sources privy to the case, charges that Mupfumira could have abused her position as Public Service Minister around 2015, to force Nssa to buy her a vehicle may have been unfounded.
In a June 26, 2015 letter to Nssa general manager at the time James Matiza , then Public Service permanent secretary Ngoni Masoka who is also on trail for abuse of office charges related to the scandal at the government pensions administrator, made the request.
“Among the issues to do with her (Mupfumira)’s conditions of service is the provision of a Mercedes Benz for her official duties.
“Requests have been made to the Ministry of Finance and the CMED for the purchase of this vehicle but due to financial constraints, Treasury has indicated that the funding of the said vehicle will be made available when cash inflows improved,” said Masoka then.
“In order for this vehicle to be purchased for the Minister, your are kindly requested for the release of an amount of $90 000 as an advance from Nssa. Repayment of this advance will be made as soon as the funding is made available by Treasury.”
In response Matiza on July 1st the same year wrote to Masoka confirming receipt of the request and that it would be actioned.
“We take note of your request and we are in the process of putting the funds together. We are working towards paying the full $90 000 on Wednesday 8 July, 2015. In the meantime could you please furnish us with your bank details. We would want to disburse the money through your Ministry,” said Matiza’s letter in part.
On July 8th the money reflected in the Ministry of Public Service’s account and recorded under “sundry debtors” reference number DFC1098/15 as an “advance to purchase Minister’s vehicle to be refunded by Treasury when budget is approved.”
An FBC Bank slip is also available showing the money was indeed moved from Nssa to the Ministry and signed by authorised signatories as required and recorded as had consistently been done elsewhere.
However a red-flag in the transaction is that Masoka seems to have skipped processes only requesting Cabinet authority a week after the money had been released.
In response to what should have been a letter requesting Cabinet authority for the purchase of the vehicle, Deputy Chief Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet, Ray Ndhlukula gave Masoka green-light to but Mupfumira the car.
“Proceed as requested and purchase an E300 Mercedes Benz vehicle. This is on the understanding that Nssa will be reimbursed of the funds they avail to you once Treasury has allocated the required funding,” said Ndhlukula in the letter referenced “request for Cabinet authority to purchase condition of service and utility vehicles for Honourable P Mupfumira, Minister of Public Service and Social Welfare.”
The letter was dated 13 July 2015. The car was subsequently purchased from a local car dealer.
Mupfumira, was arrested in late July and slapped with a litany of charges including allegations of fraud, money laundering and abuse of office involving US$95 million.