Scandals dog Biotechnology Authority
A STATE-OWNED research institute run by the Higher and Tertiary Education ministry continues to be dogged by reports of graft, maladministration and corporate mis-governance amid claims that officials from the country’s anti-corruption unit paid a blind eye to the case after being bribed.
In 2021, senior management at the National Biotechnology Authority of Zimbabwe (NBA) was reported to the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc), the National Prosecuting Authority and the parent ministry over reports of underhand dealings which have left the parastatal bleeding.
The NBA is an autonomous research and development institution mandated with developing Zimbabwe through the application of both conventional and cutting-edge bio-technologies.
It was established through the National Biotechnology Authority of Zimbabwe (NBA) Act of 2006.
NBA’s major role is to transform the country from a raw material-based economy into a knowledge-based economy through the judicious application of biotechnology in agriculture, medicine, energy and the environment.
Some of the graft allegations against the NBA management include the abuse of a vehicle loan scheme and other funds earmarked for various projects.
Between 2019 and 2020, about $3.5 million received from the parent ministry and earmarked for the establishment of a plant to manufacture marula wine spirit from indigenous marula fruit trees in Mwenezi Masvingo and other farming activities in Marondera were reportedly squandered by management, according to complaints filed with Zacc.
“The management disposed of three passenger motor vehicles to them on the pretext that they were no longer serviceable. Their service condition in the contract of employment did not provide for that hence it was contrary to the provisions of Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act,” read part of the allegations against the management contained in a letter dated 17 February 2021 addressed to the permanent secretary in the ministry, Fanuel Tagwira.
“The management uses pool cars and operational fuel to report for work whilst receiving monthly fuel coupons as transport allowance. The fuel register had some requests not signed against and not up to date hence subject to manipulation.”
But there has been no movement on the investigations amid claims that some Zacc investigators were bribed.
“The corruption cases till to date have not been taken to court…the corrupt investigators took pleasure in shifting goal posts alleging that the docket was sent to National Prosecution Authority hence they could not assist,” reads a complaint lodged with Zacc a fortnight ago.
“Meanwhile, the reported cases have stretched for more than two years without being concluded with reasonable suspicion of connivance by the Zacc investigators and the accused persons.
“Frustration on follow-ups of the case to ascertain the progress stage was the most disturbing aspect on the part of Zacc investigators. The investigators were evasive and gave endless excuses…”
Zacc spokesperson John Makamure (pictured) professed ignorance about the case when contacted for comment.
“I am not aware of the case, nor am I aware that Zacc officials have received bribes to throw away the matter. Zacc would be pleased to receive evidence on the allegations in order to institute investigations,” Makamure said.
However, it emerged that the NBA is on the brink of collapse with senior management allegedly boasting that they will never be arrested.
“The organisation is cash strapped and is struggling to remunerate its employees. On July 7, 2022 the employees through the workers’ committee approached the management after they failed to pay the USD Covid allowances,” the report adds.
“It is apparent that the aforementioned Zacc investigators have fallen short of the good tenets of being public officers in order to tame the scourge of corruption which has adversely affected most government entities.
“They are becoming the conduits of corrupt tendencies. Had it been that the case was finalised there was no further commission of the offences and tampering with the court evidence…”