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Manase in messy luxury cars scandal

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FORMER National Social Security Authority (Nssa) boss Arthur Manase is entangled in a luxury vehicles scandal amid accusations that he unlawfully bought six cars using the statutory pension fund’s money for his own use within a period of two years.

RUVIMBO MUCHENJE

He is also accused of unlawfully implementing a policy of availing condition-of-service vehicles – in addition to motor vehicle loans – in violation of the 20 March 2018 cabinet-approved circular on condition-of-service vehicles.

This comes as Manase wants Nssa to dispose of a third luxury car – a Land Rover Defender – to him on top of a Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG and a Mitsubishi Triton double cab he already got before quitting recently.

This will be his third top-of-the-range car from Nssa in two years. Executives who work at scandal-ridden Nssa mostly treat it as a self-enrichment organisation.

The three cars Manase has and wants are valued at US$416 000 in total: Mercedes-Benz US$178 000, Land Rover Defender US$175 000 and Triton US$63 000.

Manase, appointed in January 2021, resigned on 1 August. This was more than a year after he was put on leave of absence since July last year to facilitate investigations into a series of irregularities, mismanagement and corrupt activities.

He was suspended without salary and benefits on 28 July, three days before he quit facing over 30 charges of misconduct, malpractices and maladministration.

Nssa wanted to haul him before a disciplinary committee over corruption issues, some of them involving cars.

Documents seen by The NewsHawks show Manase is accused of implementing an unauthorised condition-of-service motor vehicle framework and unlawful acquisition of six cars.

One of the charges against Manase reads: “You unlawfully implemented a policy of availing condition of service vehicles, in addition to motor vehicle loans, in violation of the 20 March 2018 cabinet-approved circular on conditions of service vehicles for independent commissions, state enterprises and parastatals. You therefore wilfully defied and/or refused to implement lawful directives and caused financial loss to the authority as a result of payment of unapproved vehicle loans.

“Your aforementioned conduct was also in breach of the express and/or implied terms of your contract of employment.”

Manase is also accused of unlawfully acquiring six cars.

“You unlawfully acquired and/or funded acquisition of six vehicles using the authority’s resources for your own use within a period of two years contrary to provisions of the circular on conditions of service vehicles as detailed below:

“In December 2022, you bought a Land Cruiser Discovery vehicle as your condition of service vehicle as acting general manager, although your contract of employment did not provide for condition of service vehicle for the acting position and when you had already become the substantive General Manager.

“In June 2021, you accessed a motor vehicle loan and acquired a Mitsubishi Triton from Zimoco for US$63 000.

“On 29 March 2022, you acquired a Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG from Zimoco for US$178 000 as your condition of service vehicle and the authority paid the amount in full.

“On 1 April 2022, you acquired a Land Rover Defender worth US$175 000  as a condition of service vehicle for the General Manager, and a deposit of US$87 500 was paid by the authority. You also had at your disposal a Nssa Isuzu Double Cab vehicle.

“In June 2022, you acquired the Mercedes-Benz referred to above through a motor vehicle loan before you had completed paying the motor vehicle loan granted in June 2021.

“Additionally, your acquisition of that Mercedes-Benz motor vehicle, which at that time belonged to Nssa, as a condition of service motor vehicle, constituted a disposal of a Nssa asset and yet section of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act was flouted, and you had attempted to acquire a Land Cruiser 300 Series through the sale of OK Zimbabwe shares.”

The documents add: “Your conduct aforesaid violated procurement regulations and defied lawful directives on conditions of service vehicles framework and abused the authority’s financial resources to the detriment of pensioners. Your aforementioned conduct was a breach of the express and/or implied terms of your contract of employment.”

Despite all this, Manase has told Nssa he wants the Land Rover (Reg. No. AFK2044), purchased in December 2020, so that he can walk away with three cars in two years.

The Land Rover Defender, which he wants to purchase, is a Nssa pool vehicle.
Already he has the Triton double cab bought in August 2021. He paid off the loan he got to buy the car.

Then there is the Mercedes-Benz purchased in March 2022 as a condition-of-service vehicle, which he later converted into a loan.

Disposal of vehicles at Nssa to an employee or former employees is governed by the organisation’s condition-of-service vehicle policy and the Chief Secretary to the  President and Cabinet’s circular.

This is also consistent with the Corporate Governance Unit circular number SEP/37/23 of 2023.
The policy, which is clear as to whom it applies and relates to on condition-of-service vehicles only, was last amended on 1 March 2022.

This excludes any other class or category of vehicles like pool cars. The policy takes into account a number of scenarios about the employee and the vehicle like age, usage of the car, condition and whether new or old.

It also considers whether the employee resigned, or was retrenched, promoted, as well as the period of service and how long they have been using the vehicle. The policy also covers situations where employees shall not be entitled to purchase.

As a result of the car scandal, Nssa assistant accountant Erasmus Mavondo was arrested last year and appeared in court on allegations of corruptly awarding Manase a personal loan to buy a car using an undervalued exchange rate.

Mavondo allegedly helped Manase to buy the Mercedes-Benz for ZW$25 351 418.60 instead of ZW$60 251 593.80, which was equivalent to US$178 000. The money was purportedly given to Manase as a personal loan to regularise a problematic company-cars deal in which he ended up with two condition-of-service vehicles instead of one.

In so doing, Mavondo allegedly prejudiced Nssa of ZW$34 900 175 after converting the US$178 000 using a 31 March 2022 rate of US$1: ZW$142 instead of US$1: ZW$138 as of 21 June 2022.
Efforts to get comment from Manase were unsuccessful as he did not answer calls and messages from The NewsHawks.

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