MPs in Copac car hire scam

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Members of Parliament involved in the constitution outreach programme have hired out vehicles loaned to them by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) under a vehicle scheme, in what could turn out to be a fraudulent exercise, NewsDay can reveal.
Co-chairperson of the Constitutional Select Committee (Copac) Douglas Mwonzora confirmed yesterday that lawmakers who had hired out the vehicles in question were demanding full payment yet the vehicles legally belonged to the RBZ.
The scam was uncovered when Copac was processing payment for the vehicles hired out to the committee through the Central Mechanical Equipment Department.
Since the beginning of the outreach programme, legislators have been at the forefront demanding immediate payment for their services and also for the cars they had hired out. This paper ran a story yesterday quoting angry MPs who were threatening to withdraw their cars if Copac failed to pay for them.
Individuals who hired out vehicles to Copac were promised 40% payment upfront and the remainder after the outreach programme. Fuming MPs who spoke to NewsDay on Monday charged that they had not even been invited to sign contracts for the hire of their vehicles and therefore the use of the cars by Copac was “illegal”. But Mwonzora said yesterday that if any payment was to be made for the vehicles in question, the money would have to go to the RBZ and not to the MPs. “There are some MPs who have hired out vehicles that do not belong to them,” Mwonzora said. “These vehicles were given to MPs at the time when they did
not have their own vehicles. They have no right to hire them out as theirs and what they have done is tantamount to fraud.”
Mwonzora said this discovery had delayed payment to vehicle-owners as there was now need to ascertain ownership.
About 50 MPs have hired out more than one vehicle each to Copac, including the vehicles they acquired from the RBZ. The RBZ issued second hand vehicles to MPs in April last year because government had no money to finance a vehicle loan scheme.
RBZ governor Gideon Gono took the initiative to issue RBZ vehicles on condition that MPs would return them after their vehicle loan scheme had been approved by Finance minister Tendai Biti.
As it turned out, the majority of legislators who received the vehicles did not return them after they received loans to buy new cars.
The MPs have taken advantage of their use of the RBZ vehicles to hire them out for a quick buck to Copac.
Copac is paying $80 per day per vehicle and another 22 cents per kilometre.
A total of 265 vehicles have been hired out to Copac for the outreach programme, Mwonzora said.
He said payment was currently being processed per individual vehicle for those who sent their own vehicles for hire.