ARTHUR Johnson Manase recently quit as the National Social Security Authority (Nssa) boss facing more than 30 corruption charges which include gross inefficiency and incompetence, wilful disobedience of lawful orders, and theft or fraud, documents seen by The NewsHawks show.
Manase, who had been on leave of absence since July last year amid investigations into a series of mismanagement and corrupt activities at the statutory pension fund, recently quit as general manager, the apex Nssa position, under the weight of over 30 charges of maladministration and malpractices.
This comes as Manase intensifies his bid to gag The NewsHawks. This week he wrote yet another letter through his lawyers complaining about some aspects of last week’s story that he has now resigned, while threatening to reactivate his sinister agenda to use police to criminalise journalism.
Documents read by The NewsHawks say corruption accusations against Manase include violation of procurement regulations, imposition of contractors and service providers without a competitive bidding process, irregular purchase and disposal of properties, unlawful cash withdrawals, illegal sale of shares, lack of proper accounting for transactions, improper transfer of funds, inappropriate investments, and wrong investment disposals.
The allegations also entail implementation of an unapproved remuneration framework, unauthorised condition of service motor vehicle frameworks, unlawful acquisition of motor vehicles, unprocedural granting of loans through Nssa instead of the National Building Society (NBS), United States dollar loans improperly paid back in local currency, unlawful housing loan tenures, double-dipping and abuse of public funds in executives’ solar installation project, appointments without following company guidelines, irregular staffing levels at his office, illegal promotions, and misrepresentation of facts to the board on public claims of venality at Nssa.
Following his placement on leave of absence in July last year and subsequent corruption investigations, Nssa decided to suspend Manase without pay and benefits with effect from 28 July 2023.
This was pending his appearance before a disciplinary committee and hearing in terms of section 12B of the Labour Act (Chapter 28:01) as read with the Labour (National Employment Code of Conduct) Regulations, 2006 (SI 15 of 2006).
Charges against Manase included misconduct, willful disobedience of lawful orders and theft or fraud.
“Nssa signed a composite loan agreement with NBS, whereby NBS was to take over the administration and provision of loans to Nssa employees, effective from 1 November 2016,” one document says.
“However, you caused Nssa to extend housing loans directly to seven executive employees, including yourself, amounting to US$2 898 472.02, as well as motor vehicle loans to 15 executive employees amounting to US$1 097 747.73. As a result, you failed to comply with set procedure to access loans by the executive employees.
“Your aforementioned conduct was in breach of the express and/or implied terms of your contract of employment. Additionally, your conduct amounted to theft/fraud.”
Documents say from 1 January 2020, Manase caused Nssa to acquire listed and unlisted equity investments, enter into joint ventures and disburse some loans without due diligence, valuations, risk assessment and before fulfilment of conditions precedent, board and ministerial approvals and other necessary procedures.
“Further, you allowed funds to be disbursed to projects and/or for investments before conditions precedent had been met and without safeguarding of Nssa’s interests on some investments, for instance, Nssa’s funds were used to pay almost the full fund-raising fees to a related party before the other investors had made their contributions on the authority’s investment in Centragrid Investments (Pvt) Ltd,” a document says.
“You therefore failed to safeguard interest of the authority as its chief accounting officer and exposed the authority to potential financial loss. Your aforementioned conduct was in breach of the express and/or implied terms of your contract of employment. Additionally, your conduct amounted to incompetency and/or inefficiency in the performance of tour duties.”
Manase engaged in improper investment disposals without necessary approvals, particularly regarding National Tyre Services Ltd, Masimba and Bindura Nickel Corporation, the documents also state.
In some cases, Nssa received unsolicited offers to buy its shares in different companies which were then sold without competitive bids and necessary approvals.
In the disposal of Turnall shares, Manase did not notify the Competition and Tariff Commission as required.
“For some disposals, the authority was paid through a swap for CBZ Bank Ltd shares, which resulted in an increase of Nssa’s shareholding when the board had approved the banking portfolio refocus strategy where the authority wanted to reduce its shareholding to 9%,” the document notes.
In another charge, the document says Manase did not implement the Corporate Governance Unit (CGU) directives for Nssa to ensure its remuneration framework was in line with the cabinet-approved new remuneration framework.
“On 11 April 2022, the Office of the President and Cabinet wrote another letter to the minister in which they advised him to ensure Nssa complies with the approved remuneration framework, the PPDPA and the Public Enterprises Corporate Governance Act,” it says.
“However, you did not implement the CGU directives which were not implemented by Nssa until March 2023. As a result, for the period from 1 January 2021 to 30 September 2022, Nssa suffered approximately US$58 019 and ZW$19 859 040 prejudice through payment of unauthorised allowances and benefits to executives.
“In addition, during the period 1 January 2020 to January 2022, you approved the payment of some benefits in USD, which were not approved by the board and these benefits amounted to a total of US$265 820. You therefore, wilfully defied and/or refused to implement lawful directives and caused financial loss to the authority of payment of unapproved salaries and benefits.”
Manase also presided over former Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister Paul Mavima’s US$400 000 corrupt upmarket house deal in Quinnington, Borrowdale, Harare.
Besides, there was another fraudulent transaction by Nssa involving a commercial property in Kariba valued at US$220 000. The property was bought for US$215 000 after negotiations, but US$244 000 was paid. This means US$29 000 was siphoned. Manase and his management also tried but failed to sell Nssa’s shares in OK Zimbabwe without board approval.
“In April 2022, Nssa management entered into a transaction whereby Nssa would sell 123 835 670 OKZ shares (constituting 9.83% of OKZ issued share capital) to Croco Motors (Pvt) (later changed to Palmwealth Investments (Pvt) Limited) for a price ZW$3 715 070 110,” a document says.
“The purchase price for the OKZ shares was to be settled partly in cash and partly by delivery of motor vehicles worth US$2 404 614 by Croco Motors to Nssa.
“Although the agreement was verbally cancelled on 26 April 2022, the proposed transaction was not approved by the Nssa board. Further, the process of acquiring motor vehicles violated the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act (PPDPA) and cabinet approved condition of service vehicles policy. You therefore violated internal control mechanisms and exposed the authority to the risk of violation of PPDPA regulations.”
Nssa executives were given improper and unlawful housing loan tenures.
“Housing loan entitlement for executives was being computed as three-and-half times one’s annual basic salary and loan repayments are being spread over 25 years regardless of the beneficiary’s age and contract tenure,” the document points out.
“As a result of your conduct, you exposed the authority to the risk of failure to recover the loans granted should the employees with outstanding loan balances retire or their contracts terminated.”
Documents further indicate there was double-dipping by nine Nssa executives on the solar system installation.
“You allowed or approved some executives (including yourself) who had accessed housing loans, which also incorporated funding for solar installations to benefit under the programme, thereby resulting in double funding for solar installations,” the document indicates.
“The solar installation tender was awarded to a contractor at a total price of US$167 685 and Nssa paid a deposit of US$100 611 on 12 August 2021. However, the contractor failed to deliver as per contract, and attempts by Nssa to liquidate the performance guarantee issued by Metbank was not successful.”
Manase is also accused of making appointments without following Nssa guidelines and unlawfully staffing his office, while making illegal promotions and unprocedural staff transfers amid charges.
On cars, documents say: “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 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.”
Manase was also accused of failure to hold annual general meetings for 2020 and 2021 on time.
On allegations of corruption against management at Nssa which were widely circulated on social media, Manase was accused of misleading the board on the issue.
“After allegations of looting at Nssa circulated on social media, the board requested management to respond to the allegations, and management prepared a document for the board responding to the allegations,” the document says.
“However, investigations have revealed that the document that you and your team presented before the board misrepresented some facts, and/or withheld some critical information from the board.
“On 24 May 2022, Nssa received an enquiry from Zimbabwe Independent on the allegations, and you instructed Prudence Mutsvanga (an ex-Alpha Media Holdings lawyer now with Nssa) to manage the issue, and she responded to you and said: ‘Thank you I am getting in touch with Tendai (Mutseyekwa who is in charge of Nssa marketing and communications). If possible, we will meet Wisdom (Mudzungairi, former NewsDay editor and AMH editor-in-chief) or Faith (Zaba, Zimbabwe Independent editor) tomorrow. We have enough leverage so it can be suppressed’.”
Efforts to get comment from Manase were unsuccessful as he did not answer calls and messages from The NewsHawks.