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Multi-million dollar whistleblowing corruption scandal rocks Zimra

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Zimra launches witch-hunt

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… Top executives scramble over fresh corruption reports

TOP Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) executives are panicking over recent revelations by The NewsHawks of corruption involving the tax collector’s multi-million-dollar whistle-blowing fund as they scramble to cover their tracks.

OWEN GAGARE

This comes as Zimra officials have launched a witch-hunt to establish who among themselves is leaking information to the country’s new leading investigative journalism platform.

Following recent stories on corruption, Zimra officials have been discussing how to resolve outstanding controversial whistle-blowing cases, including one involving whistle-blowers Norman Nyabadza, Dennis Martin Macharaga and Evans Kujinga — who previously reported notorious Harare land baron Felix Munyaradzi for tax evasion involving US$12 million.

Zimra has compromised whistle-blowers amid an internal fight to take charge of the process, give it to their associates and share the whistle-blowing proceeds.

Zimra executives held a meeting on 20 May at their headquarters at ZB Centre in Harare, at the corner of First Street and Kwame Nkrumah Avenue, to discuss outstanding cases and leakage of information to the media.

The fire-fighting meeting was attended by Regina Chinamasa (commissioner revenue assurance), Edward Phiri (chief investigations officer), Mavuto Maseko (investigations – attended virtually), Nyabadza (whistle-blower) and Macharaga (whistle-blower).

Kujinga, who has collected millions of dollars from Zimra for whistle-blowing, also joined the meeting virtually. The meeting discussed cases that need to be resolved and who was leaking information to The NewsHawks, top sources at ZB Centre say.

Further, a confidential email sent to those who attended the meeting shed more light on issues tackled and Zimra officials’ anxieties. The email, dated 31 May, was written by Kujinga. It highlighted the witch-hunt over information leaks and purported to have found suspects who were giving media information.

“Good morning. In line with our resolution of our meeting I’m writing to you about my preliminary findings pertaining to leaks to online media of our confidential 34B (meaning Section 34B of the Revenue Authority Act) cases,” Kujinga writes.

“I’ve gathered that former Zimra employee Mr (Moja) Mutizira who was chief internal audit manager is the supplier of information to one Mr Bernard Mpofu of news hoax (hawks). My sources tells me though without tangible evidence that one Mr (Tatenda) Nzirawa from internal audit is helping them. There is need for Zimra, especially loss control (department), to try and investigate this lead. We remain our ears on the ground should we get evidence or something helpful to crack this matter we shall do forthwith. Kind regards.”

Mpofu, The NewsHawks digital editor who wrote some of the recent Zimra stories, does not even know Mutizira and Nzirawa from a bar of soap. Investigations show Kujinga concocted the false story of certain individuals leaking information to journalists to target those who previously investigated Zimra corruption over the whistle-blowers’ fund in which he was implicated.

While The NewsHawks has high-level sources at Zimra, they do not include any of those officials Kujinga named in his confidential email. Although Zimra officials and their ally Kujinga whined about information leaks and The NewsHawks investigations, they did not want to seriously tackle whistle-blower fund looting and related issues.

As The NewsHawks recently reported, massive corruption — which has dragged on for years — is rocking Zimra’s multi-million-dollar whistle-blower fund which the tax collector’s senior officials are looting in cahoots with a corrupt network of informants acting on insider information.

In April, The NewsHawks reported Zimra was caught in a corruption storm in which its senior officers were accused of conniving with tax evaders in exchange for payment and partaking in attendant financial rewards.

This endangers the security of whistle-blowers and damages the image of Norman Nyabadza, Macharaga and Kujinga — who had reported Munyaradzi to Zimra for tax evasion involving US$12 million.

Zimra in March wrote to Munyaradzi demanding payment or else they would garnish his business accounts. Munyaradzi was given seven days to pay or face the consequences.

Under the whistle-blower facility, Zimra is supposed to reward legitimate informants on cases relating to tax evasion under Section 34B of the Revenue Authority Act (Chapter 23:11) as read with Statutory Instrument 150 of 2020.

Statutory Instrument 150 of 2020, gazetted on 26 June 2020, regulates the payment of rewards to informants upon whistleblowing and recovery of revenue.

The reward is 10% of the amount recovered on the basis of information supplied. Corrupt Zimra officials always manipulate that.

Zimra also undertakes to protect the identity of the informants at all times as provided for in the secrecy provisions of the Revenue Authority Act, but it has failed to do so and is endangering whistle-blowers.

Following The NewsHawks’ recent reports, Zimra sources have provided further details, including an audit report dating back five years which shows a frenzy of looting of public funds under the whistle-blower facility. The audit covered the period 2009-2016.

However, the plunder has continued unabated. Millions of dollars in taxpayers’ funds have been stolen through the racket. The network works like this: senior Zimra officials get information from whistle-blowers and then help them to consolidate and process their cases fast using inside information for a huge cut.

Alternatively, and more corruptly, senior Zimra officials use inside information on individuals and companies’ tax returns and tax evasion to empower their cronies to come and report cases in return for huge payments, which they then share.

This becomes lucrative fake whistle-blowing. The money-spinning fraudulent scheme has been so lucrative that Kujinga, who has infiltrated the Zimra system, guaranteed himself US$15 million.

But the use of insider information has led to a prejudice to Zimra of US$10 million on one occasion.

Kujinga, a prolific whistle-blower who was an informant in over 80 cases, obtained much of the information from inside Zimra to support his cases.

At the time of the audit which exposed the rot, he had been paid over US$1 million and stood to be paid over US$15 million when all collections due had been paid up.

This money was at various stages of processing: cash due for payment; cash in debt which was being collected; money from cases under audit, matters not yet audited and transactions submitted.

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