NATIONAL Social Security Authority (NSSA) former top official, Tirivavi James Chiuta, appeared at the Harare Magistrates’ Court yesterday facing charges of criminal abuse of office after he allegedly handpicked five companies to construct houses worth over $78 million without following due processes.
Chiuta (35), who was represented by Lucky Mauwa, was not asked to plead when he appeared before magistrate Victoria Mashamba, who remanded him to June 26 on $1 000 bail.
As part of his bail conditions, he was ordered to report twice a week at CID commercial crime division, surrender his passport, reside at his given address and not to interfere with State witnesses.
Chiuta was the strategic executive assistant to then NSSA general manager, Elizabeth Chitiga.
The complainant in the matter is National Building Society (NBS) represented by its managing director, Lameck Danga.
Allegations are that in September 2016, NSSA and NBS convened a strategic planning workshop, whose resolutions included building 10 000 low-cost housing units countrywide by December 2017. NSSA was to provide funding with a view to invest employee pensions as well as empowering the lowly remunerated citizens to own houses.
NBS, through its head of projects, Silas Mukono, conducted road shows countrywide aimed at identifying potential partners and 14 were identified.
A further due diligence carried out by NBS shortlisted projects for funding by NSSA at a cost of $80 991 200.
These projects were 1 000 houses to be built by Hydraben Company in Victoria Range, Masvingo, at a cost of $23,2m, and 200 houses in Bulawayo worth $4,64m by Denver Investments, 750 houses in Mkoba, Gweru at a cost of $17,4m by Hunde Trust, 725 houses in Dulibadzimu, Beitbridge, at a cost of $16,82m by Forit and 816 houses in Emganwini worth $18,93m by Bulawayo City Council.
It is the State’s case that Chiuta connived with Chitiga and handpicked their own five projects with an estimated cost of $78 827 500 without seeking authority from the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe.
It is alleged Chiuta directed NBS to implement the five projects through an email dated August 24 last year.
The five projects that had been handpicked by Chiuta and Chitiga failed to pass the verification process, as their respective land had ownership disputes.
N-Frasys (Private) Limited and Globeny Construction (Private) Limited had disputes on land ownership and they had to settle the disputes using funding from NBS for $424 426 and $1,5m, respectively.
The State alleges that two contractors have not yet fulfilled their contractual obligation.
The duo allegedly further awarded N-Fresys and Globeny Construction projects in Zvishavane at a cost of $31 727 500 without the consent of the land developer, thereby, exposing public funds.
Sebastian Mutizirwa appeared for the State.