The Tongogara Rural District Council (RDC) has finally fired its Chief Executive Officer, Brian Rufasha, over a slew of corruption charges.
The local authority is in the Midlands province and residents have for years complained over failure by relevant offices to take decisive action against the corruption at the council.
Rufasha was recently placed on suspension to enable investigations.
Information for Development Trust (IDT) and its media partner, The Standard newspaper, have been on the case since early 2018, being the first to lay bare the graft that the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) later took up after a damning report by the Office of the Auditor General (OAG).
A disciplinary hearing panel that conducted the case on Monday found Rufasha—who at one time threatened to sue us—guilty of the charges levelled against him, and council immediately fired him.
The disciplinary committee chair, Nelson Mashiza, confirmed the development and also revealed that the council acting CEO, Mesa Dhliwayo, who had been implicated in the Tongogara graft, was also found guilty and fired.
“After the conclusion of the disciplinary hearing against the two employees, they were both found guilty of charges levelled against them. They were dismissed with immediate effect,” said Mashiza, a lawyer who was tasked with media relations by the council.
Rufasha did not respond to calls or messages sent out to him.
Documents indicate that he was found guilty of procuring a backhole loader from Pelgin Consulting Service (PVT) Ltd in 2014 but it was s never delivered.
The disciplinary hearing heard that Rufasha approved payment for the earthmoving machine against the advice of the council’s procurement committee.
The committee had indicated that Pelgin had no capacity to supply such equipment. As a result, council lost US$67, 850.
This tallied with our 2018 report on the matter.
The hearing tribunal concluded that Rufasha acted in connivance with Pelgin as he took no legal action against the company for failing to honour the contract.
On another charge, Rufasha was found guilty on a charge of engaging the services of the Gweru Messenger of Court to deliver a letter to the Finance executive officer, Sithembiso Ndiripo, who was on authorised leave.
The letter was asking Ndiripo to report back to work and the disciplinary committee concluded that the action amounted to abuse of public funds when money was spent on the Messenger of Court.
The panel said Rufasha could simply have phoned Ndiripo or delivered the letter to order her back to work.
This charge was in violation of Section 45(a) of the Public Finance Management Act Chapter 22.19 which demands financial prudency from office bearers.
Rufasha was also found guilty of conduct inconsistent with council processes for unlawfully purchasing a residential stand from one Spiwe Tambaoga.
He misrepresented to her that the stand was under repossession from council and paid US$ 500 for it in August 2019 after convincing Tambaoga it was better to get little money for the property than lose it to council.
Dhliwayo was fired for leaking confidential information to Rufasha during the time she was acting CEO.
Part of Rufasha’s dismissal letter signed by the Tongogara RDC chairperson, Timire Njovani, reads: “You are hereby dismissed from employment by TRDC in your substantive capacity as CEO of TRDC with immediate effect. You are directed to hand over council property in your possession to the Acting CEO Piniel Chiguvari by Wednesday 18 of November and also surrender council vehicle Toyota Hilux Registration Number AAE 7902 to the council on the same date.”
Several council officials at other local authorities are facing corruption allegations.
On September 9 this year, the Harare City Council town clerk Engineer Hosiah Chisango was arrested in Gweru by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission over a series of alleged land scams perpetrated in the capital city.
His case is yet to be concluded at the courts.
As recently reported by The Zimbabwe Independent in a collaboration with IDT, Chisango is also alleged to be involved in a US$1 billion tender scam in which he and some councillors reportedly attempted to give contracts to four Chinese companies without going to tender.
The Special Anti-Corruption Unit (SACU) confirmed investigating the scandal, while President Emmerson Mnangagwa recently voiced concern over the matter, with some sources indicating that Chisango and the councillors could be arrested on this matter any time.
In April this year, Chitungwiza residents approached ZACC and police complaining about alleged corruption at the municipality where top executives allegedly overpaid themselves and in some instances reportedly got double salaries.