Twenty-five Government officials have been arrested over the past week on allegations of criminal abuse of office, or fraud and stealing large quantities of bitumen meant for the rehabilitation of the Harare-Bindura Road, under the Emergency Road Rehabilitation Programme 2.
Of the 25, seven are Department of Roads senior officials in Mashonaland Central who were arrested for allegedly stealing the bitumen.
Four are officials from the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development accused of attempting to allow pegging on land in Uzumba-Maramba-Pfungwe and Mutoko that was closed to pegging.
The final 14 are fired former Zinara staff of the Shurugwi tollgate allegedly involved in a cash-swipe card fraud that raked in $16 million.
Investigations into the Department of Roads found evidence that the senior officials were stealing the bitumen which they would then sell in Harare.
Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Felix Mhona said in an interview yesterday: “It is sad to report that another syndicate in the Department of Roads in Mashonaland Central has been busted with the assistance of ZRP Glendale. In this instance, bitumen meant for the Harare-Bindura Road was being stolen and sold in Harare.
“Initial investigations indicate that the provincial senior officers were at the centre of this theft. All involved are now assisting police with investigations. The ministry frowns upon such abhorrent and reprehensible behaviour amongst its members,” he said.
Minister Mhona said his ministry would continue to tighten security at all storage facilities countrywide to curb thefts.
“We will continue to tighten all controls around our materials storage areas to ensure that this will not be repeated anywhere in the ministry.
“We thank the police and members of the public for their alertness and vigilance. Together we will conquer the scourge of corruption and theft of public assets,” he said.
This is not the first time that such incidents have been reported. In 2019, at least 215 drums of bitumen worth US$4 million were stolen at a road construction site in Chivhu and Government rolled out extensive investigations to apprehend the culprits.
The bitumen meant for the dualisation of a 10-kilometre stretch along the Harare- Beitbridge highway went missing under mysterious circumstances. Investigations revealed that the manner in which the bitumen disappeared had footprints of an inside job by some officials from the Department of Roads.
Thefts of a similar nature had also occurred in the past in Hwedza and Gweru, pointing to a coordinated racket that might be involving connivance between a gang of officials in the Department of Roads and the suppliers.
Minister Mhona said his ministry was on a drive to stump out corruption in all the departments.
“Recently the focus has been on CVR, where unscrupulous elements within the department were fleecing the public of their hard earned cash. A stop has been put in place,” he said.
Corruption and a poor work ethic by some officials at the Central Vehicle Registry (CVR) in Harare have been cited following motorists’ failure to acquire number plates since last year.
The four Ministry of Mines and Mining Development officials were arrested yesterday on charges of criminal abuse of office after they allegedly recommended the registration of mining claims on land closed for pegging in Uzumba-Maramba- Pfungwe and Mutoko.
The four, Tizah Mandawa, Zvinodaishe Mubariri, Rachel Nkomo and Godfrey Dadirai were arrested by officers from the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission. They are still assisting with investigations.
In a statement Zacc said the four are accused of recommending the registration of mining claims on grounds not open for pegging and prospecting in UMP and Mutoko.
The Shurugwi tollgate matter, which has already seen the 14 dismissed in internal hearings or resigning after these started, moved up a step when Zacc over the weekend arrested 12 more Zinara revenue clerks for fraud involving $9,8 million after they created fake tap cards which they swiped for motorists at Shurugwi tollgate.
Moreblessing Dzimba, Phylis Mawere, Farai Mutamba, Cleopatra Chihweta, Ismeal Mudzamiri, Kelvin Magwiranhaka, Oleen Magumise, Agnes Ngara, Esnath Manda, Jackson Kazembe, Tanyaradzwa Samupanya and Masciline Mwenje are accused of fraud involving more than $9,8 million.
It is alleged that the group created fake tap cards which they swiped to allow motorists passage using the online payment system, while they collected the cash for themselves.
Last Friday, two other Zinara senior employees were arrested at the Shurugwi Tollgate by Zacc, facing 234 counts of fraud involving $6,8 million. Supervisors Lilian Svinurai and Peter Pikita are also accused of using Zinara swipe cards and pocketing State money.
They were arrested following a tip off and others may be implicated in the scam as investigations continue.
Seven other employees at the tollgate were arrested last year.Herald.