ZIMBABWE Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) investigators have arrested Bikita Rural District Council chief executive officer Peter Chibhi (pictured) for violating the Public Finance Management Act after his local authority bought six state-of-the-art vehicles last year for top managers without ministerial approval.
Chibhi was picked up on Tuesday, spent the night at Bikita Police Station and appeared before magistrate Takawira Mugabe at the Bikita magistrates’ court on Wednesday morning.
He was remanded out of custody to 17 March 2023 after paying ZW$50 000 bail and ordered to report to the police every Friday. Chibhi entered into a contract with African Century Limited which bound the council to future financial commitment and the company acquired six Toyota GD6 vehicles for US$191 000 and the deal attracted US$30 900 interest.
The vehicles were registered in the names of the top executives who benefitted from the scheme, prejudicing residents since the money was supposed to be used for service delivery. The Zacc team took the keys and parked the six vehicles in the council yard.
The vehicles will be used in court as exhibits. Bikita Residents and Ratepayers Association (BIRRA) official Mark Mutengani told The NewsHawks that residents welcomed Zacc’s intervention and their hope is that justice will finally prevail.
He said the top management violated the law by using public funds to purchase private vehicles hence they should restitute council.
“We appreciate the move by Zacc to respond to petitions by residents over corrupt officials. Residents are still waiting for restitution. We hope and trust that justice will prevail at the end of the day. As residents we are clear that what the council managers did in buying personal top-of-the-range vehicles using taxpayers’ money is corrupt and criminal and therefore cleaning of the mess is highly welcome,” said Mutengani.
After descending on Bikita, Zacc investigators armed with a warrant of search and seizure issued by Masvingo provincial magistrate Farai Gwitima on 17 February 2023 proceeded to Chiredzi Town Council seeking documents pertaining to various corrupt activities within council contained in a report compiled by a commission which was led by Alfa Nhamo.
The report was released recently, seven years after investigations were conducted. According to the warrant of search and seizure referenced Zacc MASVCR 01/02/2023 seen by The NewsHawks, the investigators are requesting for critical documents from the local authorities, including contracts, full council meetings’ resolutions, senior executives’ files, as well as agreements entered between council and land developers between 2013 and 2016.
The Nhamo report revealed that between 2013 and 2016 various corrupt activities by councillors and management, including the parcelling out of 45 stands per councillor with the former council chairperson getting 71 stands including commercial, low and high residential stands.
A senior council official said the Zacc team arrived in Chiredzi on Thursday and spent the whole day looking for documents related to the Nhamo report.
He said some of the documents were not produced by council officials and acting town secretary Wesley Kauma was summoned to the corruption watchdog’s offices in Masvingo on Friday morning.