Former state medical insurer Premier Service Medical Aid Society (PSMAS) chief executive officer and close ally of vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa Cuthbert Dube stole a whopping $120 million which he distributed among cabinet ministers, politicians and top government workers, investigations have revealed.
Health minister David Parirenyatwa, president Robert Mugabe’s girlfriend and environment minister Oppah Muchinguri, the dictator’s spokesman George Charamba and numerous other high-profile individuals have been revealed as accomplices and beneficiaries in Dube’s phenomenal theft, which bankrupted PSMAS, resulting in millions of people failing to access health services.
The investigations by auditor-general Mildred Chiri and parliament’s public accounts committee show that Dube, a chartered accountant, blew the money on luxuries, including holidays abroad for himself, his daughter and son-in-law as well as a visit to the prominent Nigerian ‘prophet’ T B Joshua when it became apparent that he was about to get caught.
“The total sum of money which we are looking at which was misappropriated during the last five years was $120 million,” said Bulawayo South MP Eddie Cross, moving a motion to nail Dube in the courts and have him pay back what he stole. “That is equivalent to five years of the budget of Parliament. The salary drawn by the Chief Executive Officer, Mr Dube in his last year of service before he was dismissed from the position would have paid the salaries of every single Member of Parliament of this House. Every single Member of Parliament could have been paid just from the salary of one individual. In fact, six executives over a period of five years drew a total of salaries and allowances worth $64 million. The official salaries over the same period of time were $2, 9 million, which means they drew unlawfully $61 million from the resources of the society equivalent to 95% of the amount which was paid to them as individuals.”
Cross noted that in addition to this, they were drawing salaries, not only from the society but also from the investment wing and in certain cases, from the subsidiary in Zambia. The majority of these “extraordinary payments” were either authorised by the CEO or by the board. In fact, Cross said, where authority was given, the auditors could only find authority given by particular Chairpersons.
“Allowances worth $24 million over five years were paid to 16 staff including a secretary and driver to Mr. Dube. These allowances covered the following elements: educational, board, special, housing, DStv, fuel, groceries and acting allowances, and quarterly benefits. Only 17% of these allowances were taxed. The balance was not taxed and society incurred another $9, 5 million in taxes on these allowances. That means over a five year period, those 16 individuals benefitted to the extent of $34 million,” Cross said.
He said the budget for the House this year is $20 million “and here are allowances for these ridiculous issues being paid to these individuals”.
“In addition, the holiday allowances paid to Mr. Dube and his family totaled $6 000 per day or $539 000 in three years. In addition, he drew cash loans worth $350 000. He drew travel and subsistence allowances worth $3, 2 million. None of these payments passed through the payroll. In other words, they were not taxed,” the Bulawayo South MP said.
One of the trips covered by this ‘subsistence and travel allowance’ was a private trip to Nigeria to see the T.B. Joshua.
“Payments were also made for relatives, including his son-in-law and his daughter to go on holiday. $22 million was spent on land, buildings and motor vehicles all of which with inadequate documentation and records. This includes a house for the Chief Executive Officer at a cost of a million dollars,” Cross said.
The audit report reveals two transactions involving Muchinguri of the purchase of a vehicle for $60 000 and a plot of land for $45 000 without any valuations or board approval. In addition to this, the report states that $3,8 million was paid to “high profile individuals (politicians, legislators and Government officials)” who have not been named.
MPs adopted the motion and referred the matter to the Committee on Health which was instructed “to call each of these individuals to parliament for public hearings. This includes the entire PSMAS board on which there are seven permanent secretaries, including Charamba, as well as health and finance secretaries Gerald Gwinji and Willard Manungo. Former senior staff such as public relations manager Mavis Gumbo and individuals named in the audit report as being beneficiaries of “this maladministration payment”, including the minister of health and child care David Parirenyatwa will also be summoned.
“I am hoping then that once we have done public hearings and investigated these matters, we will then come back to the House with a full report and recommendation for action,” said Cross.
Among the actions sought by the MPs is that the government immediately sets in motion processes for the prosecution of all those who benefitted from this scandal; take remedial action to recover the funds that were paid to those individuals who were unjustly enriched; investigate the role of the board of the Society that was in charge of the affairs of the society at the time of this abuse of funds and if found culpable, that prosecution be extended to former Board Members; and review present remuneration policies of the Society and bring them in line with current Government policy.
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