By Mthulisi Mathuthu
SW Radio Africa
25 March 2014
An audit has revealed that the Mining Development Fund was systematically looted during the period when the ZANU PF MP for Umguza, Obert Mpofu, was the mines minister.
The audit covered the year 2011 and the report is now being scrutinized by the parliamentary committee on public accounts. So obvious was the evidence of looting that the office of the auditor general has recommended an investigation into the operations of the Fund.
A report from the auditor general’s office said the fraud was ‘perpetrated by ministry officials who took advantage of the weaknesses in the processing payments where cash was being used instead of using cheques.’
The audit found that the cash book in which expenditure was recorded was stolen. As a result it was difficult for the auditor general to establish the validity of financial statements provided by the ministry.
Some listed items such as rentals, hire expenses, foreign travel, food and refreshments, printing and stationery incurred ‘unnecessarily high expenditures which were not commensurate with the size and operations of the Fund.’ The audit said as much as $1.6 million was unaccounted for and it was not convinced that the monies were used in pursuance of the Fund’s objectives.
MDC-T shadow minister of mines Abedinico Bhebhe said the looting was made possible by the lack of monitoring mechanisms. He said: ‘The Fund is generally vulnerable to looting and I can tell you that the whole idea of setting up such a fund, without putting up monitoring mechanisms, was disastrous.’ Bhebhe said his own investigations have so far shown that some people were accessing the fund to run private businesses.
It is not clear if Mpofu had any direct access to the Fund but the findings of this audit could further taint his image. Although Mpofu was already a businessman prior to his appointment it is said that he acquired vast properties in Bulawayo and Victoria Falls during his tenure as mines minister. But as the minister in charge at the time he should take full responsibility.
So wealthy is Mpofu that a ZANU PF MP for Hurungwe West, Themba Mliswa, has called for investigation into how his colleague acquired the Allied Bank.
It is widely believed that Mpofu, who calls himself President Mugabe’s ‘ever obedient son’, owes his wealth to his unquestionable loyalty to the ageing leader.