Felex Share Harare Bureau—-
FIVE National Social Security Authority (NSSA) executives sacked last year for looting and mismanaging the pensions institution are set to go home empty-handed after the government resolved that their benefits compensate for what they unjustly paid themselves. They also face prosecution for causing the rot exposed by a recent forensic audit.
This comes as Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Prisca Mupfumira told our Harare Bureau in an interview on Friday that NSSA would from next month have a new remuneration framework that would do away with obscene executive salaries and other benefits.
The quintet of James Matiza (general manager) and directors Shadreck Vera (investments), Patrick Mupani (finance), Tendai Mafunda (corporate services) and Bright Chidyagwai (ICT) made headlines last year after a forensic audit revealed that they pampered their lovers with dubious loans and awarded themselves monthly salaries of more than $40,000 each.
Minister Mupfumira said the sacked executives were going home with nothing. “We’ve concluded separation with the former executives except for one (Vera) who is outside the country not feeling well,” she said.
“They’ve signed and the money they took has to be recovered before they go. Their benefits, which they were supposed to get, will now cover for what they looted and as it stands most of them owe NSSA (money)” said the Minister. “Modalities are being put in place to recover the money. They are not going to get any hefty thing and, in simple terms, they are going home empty-handed.”
Minister Mupfumira said the search for a new general manager to replace Matiza had begun, with advertisement for the job in the offing. “Now we are going to embark on the search for a new general manager who should be in place by April 1,” she said. “We look at qualified, competent people who understand investment issues.”
The Matiza-led management made questionable investments of $100 million, including buying shares in poorly run companies and properties with inflated prices. Pensioners have borne the brunt of mismanagement at NSSA with their monthly payouts stagnant at $60.
Minister Mupfumira said the new remuneration framework for NSSA would end the “unbefitting and unnecessary” perks management was getting. The new framework will be in place mid-February. “We are working on a new remuneration framework for NSSA and its associates to avoid what was happening before,” she said.
“What happened before should never be allowed to take place again and now the government is tightening everything. The framework will deal with remuneration and other benefits to see if they are in line with NSSA objectives. At the end of the day we want to give the stakeholder, who is the pensioner in this case, livable things while managing staff costs. They can’t operate as if they are a profit making organisation.”
There are also claims that some executives were getting a second salary from NSSA’s investment arms on top of benefits like interest-free housing and car loans for themselves and girlfriends, tuition fees for children, and salaries for home security guards and domestic workers.
NSSA management also came under fire for splurging $2,5 million in the now defunct CFX Bank, $12 million on overpriced Star Africa Corporation shares, and $1,5 million on Africom Continental.
At least $45 million is locked in Interfin Bank, which is now under curatorship after being fingered in the alleged abuse of depositors’ funds. In addition, NSSA lost $11,2 million worth of property to local authorities for failing to develop them
The institution also gave “non-profitable” loans to parastatals, with the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe getting $3,1 million and Zesa $9 million. Cottco got $5 million in November 2009 and another $3 million in April 2010 on a 124-day tenor and interest rate of 18 percent per annum.
The Grain Marketing Board received $5 million for a flat 2 percent facility fee and four percent per annum on a 90-day tenor. The questionable investments are detailed in a forensic audit report compiled by the National Economic Conduct Inspectorate. NSSA was established in 1989 through an Act of Parliament to facilitate a national social security scheme for retirees.
It collects monthly employee contributions and is supposed to invest the money on the equity and money markets, and real estate to be able to pay contributors living pensions.