FOUR Finance ministry employees appeared at the Harare Magistrates’ Court last Saturday charged with swindling government of over $720 000 by allegedly raising fake invoices which they later submitted to the Accountant-General’s Office for payment.
BY CHARLES LAITON
Senior economist Varaidzo Margret Chirahwi (32), accountant Jacob Forgive Mlambo (30), deputy director external finance Stanley Zharare (40) and acting director of finance Mary Takavarasha (40) are said to have acted in cahoots with some other top government officials in the alleged scam involving $729 345.
The suspects were not asked to plead when they appeared before provincial magistrate Milton Serima who remanded them out of custody on $1 000 bail each.
The State alleges that the four employees last December submitted names of non-existent firms in the name of Nico Orgo (Private) Limited and Pioneer Hibred (Private) Limited to the Accountant-General’s Office.
To make the transaction appear genuine, they allegedly attached a fake covering letter purportedly originated by one Kudakwashe Zata, who is the finance director in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, to the effect that the stated companies had supplied inputs worth $412 095 and were due for payment.
The ministry immediately processed the papers and instructed FBC Bank to effect transfer of $220 050 into the four accused’s BancABC account and $192 045 into a Steward Bank account.
According to the State, the two bank accounts were fraudulently opened on December 23 last year by the four accused persons and their accomplices still at large.
Between December 31 last year and January 2015, it is alleged, the four accused persons withdrew a total of $407 785 and further transferred $92 750 into other bank accounts.
Using the same modus operandi, the State alleges, the four accused persons submitted another fake invoice worth $317 250 in the name of Pioneer Hibred to the Accountant-General’s Office for payment.
Acting on the misrepresentation, the Finance ministry again allegedly instructed FBC Bank to transfer $317 250 into the accused’s BancABC which they had previously used.
The offence came to light on January 15 this year when the Ministry of Agriculture, through its director Zata, requested the Ministry of Finance to release funds to Reapers (Private) Limited, Zimbabwe Fertiliser Company and Windmill (Private) Limited, but was surprised to learn that the bank balance was insufficient to meet the payments.