Supreme Court dismisses appeal by fired fraudster


Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Court Reporter
THE Supreme Court yesterday dismissed an appeal by an accounting assistant who was fired by the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare for defrauding her employer of $200.

The money was part of funds channelled to the Government by Unicef under a humanitarian aid programme targeting vulnerable households.

Ms Sister Conjwayo was employed by the Ministry in 2000 and dismissed in 2016 for misconduct following an internal disciplinary hearing.

Aggrieved by the decision of the disciplinary committee, she launched an appeal at the Labour Court citing Labour and Social Welfare Minister Petronella Kagonye as the respondent. She lost the matter at the lower court and the matter spilled to the Supreme Court.

In dismissing the appeal, Supreme Court judge Justice Bharat Patel sitting with Justices Elizabeth Gwaunza and Antonia Guvava during a circuit in Bulawayo yesterday ruled that Ms Conjwayo’s application lacked merit.

“Accordingly, it is ordered that the appeal by the appellant (Ms Conjwayo) against her dismissal is hereby dismissed with costs,” ruled Justice Gwaunza.

The ruling by the Supreme Court bench follows an appeal by Ms Conjwayo challenging Bulawayo Labour Court judge, Justice Evangelista Kabasa’s decision to uphold the outcome of the disciplinary committee.

Ms Conjwayo through her lawyer, Mr Robert Ndlovu of R Ndlovu and Company, sought an order nullifying her dismissal.

Justice Kabasa, however, ruled that there was overwhelming evidence against Ms Conjwayo.

According to court papers, Ms Conjwayo, whose duties entailed the periodical disbursement of money to vulnerable households, used forged signatures of the beneficiaries to collect their money.

In some instances, unregistered proxies were allowed to collect money on behalf of beneficiaries, which was contrary to the harmonised social cash transfer (HSCT) manual, a payment system which was used in the disbursement of the funds.

During the course of the programme, an audit was carried out against the backdrop of suspicions of fraud. The audit revealed that some beneficiaries had not received their monies yet records indicated money had been disbursed with beneficiaries’ forged signatures.

Beneficiaries were supposed to identify themselves with their personal details on identity documents being captured in the computer system.

Following the release of the audit report, Ms Conjwayo and other officials involved in the scam were charged with acts of misconduct.

Ms Conjwayo faced two counts of contravening section 2 of the Public Service Regulations (2000). The first count was for improper, negligent, inefficient or incompetent performance of duties while the second one was an act which was inconsistent or prejudicial to discharge of official duties.

She appeared before a disciplinary committee and was found guilty and subsequently relieved of her duties.

In her heads of argument, Ms Conjwayo said the Labour Court misdirected itself when it disregarded the evidence that the entire payment system under the HSCT manual was flawed and had loopholes. She argued that the findings of the disciplinary committee had serious misgivings in the process by which its decision was based.

“It is submitted with respect that the court a quo erred by disregarding the evidence that the supervisors were advised of the flaws of the project,” said Ms Conjwayo.


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