Deputy Minister of Energy Hubert Nyanhongo and Secretary for Energy Justin Mupamhanga resisted orders by Minister Elton Mangoma to have National Oil Company Of Zimbabwe (Noczim) officials, accused of misappropriating $35 million, arrested, it has emerged.
It is this tiff between Mangoma and his subordinates that has landed the minister in jail, the High Court heard on Thursday.
The revelations came out during cross-examination of Mupamhanga by Mangoma’s lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa.
Mupamhanga agreed he resisted the move to have the alleged fraudsters arrested but said his reason was that the evidence of the fraud was a draft audit report which could not be totally reliable.
After studying the draft audit report, Mangoma had made a formal report to the Attorney-General’s Office recommending the arrest of the implicated Noczim officials.
Mtetwa told the court that out of the $35 million missing from Noczim, it had been positively established that at least $11 million had been stolen by the accused officials whom Mangoma wanted arrested.
Mtetwa told the court that instead of getting the Noczim officials arrested, Nyanhongo and Mupamhanga had suggested that they be paid hefty retirement packages and asked to leave the oil procurement company.
But Mangoma rejected the suggestion as tantamount to rewarding criminals and therefore unreasonable, the court heard.
Mtetwa asked: “You agree that the minister strenuously opposed the hefty retirement packages to persons who were implicated in the massive fraud?”
Mupamhanga replied: “Yes, but I asked the minister to allow me to come up with a better way forward.”
Mtetwa further asked: “Is it not correct that as a result of the minister’s stance, daggers were drawn, that is why he is here and those implicated in the massive fraud are walking scot-free?”
Mupamhanga answered: “I don’t know.”
Turning to the issue of fuel procurement by Noczim and Petro Trade, Mupamhanga told Justice Chinembiri Bhunu that not every tender was referred to the State Procurement Board.
He said the list of government gazetted companies which was being used as exhibit in court was a wrong one.
Mupamhanga disowned the list of government gazetted companies saying Noczim had a different procurement committee which was totally different from the state procurement board.
Earlier, Mupamhanga had denied that Noczim had a procurement committee but when Mtetwa produced minutes of the meeting that was held by the committee he made a sudden U-turn.
“My lord, I want to change my statement. I am advised there is one (Noczim procurement committee) which sits on tenders,” Mupamhanga said drawing laughter from the gallery.
Mtetwa asked Mupamhanga if the existence of two separate procurement boards would not expose the procurement process to corruption.
“What criteria is used to determine (that) this goes to state procurement board and this goes to the Noczim procurement committee?” asked Mtetwa.
Mupamhanga answered: “The procurement entity can answer that.”
Mupamhanga also conceded there was no documented proof that Mangoma authorised the purchase of fuel from Nooa Petroleum or Mowhelere Trading.
He admitted too that several procurement meetings were held but no minutes were taken.
He said it was only on rare occasions that the minister was involved that the minutes were written.
After being subjected to intense cross-examination, Mupamhanga requested for an adjournment.
The trial continues today (Friday).