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A substantive chief executive officer for the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara) will start work on April 1 as the face of a new executive that took over from the previous scandal-plagued management.
The parastatal, which is a key institution that pools and administers funds for local and national roadworks, has been without a substantive CEO for the past 18 months after Engineer Nancy Masiyiwa-Chamisa was suspended in July 2018.
She was subsequently fired in September 2019 for alleged incompetence and allowing corruption to fester under her watch.
Most of the former management has been jettisoned in a staff clear-out designed to refresh the institution.
In a wide-ranging interview with The Sunday Mail, Zinara board chairperson, Engineer Michael Madanha, said the new chief executive — whom he could not name as they are serving notice at their current company — would assume duties after approval of the appointment by Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister, Joel Biggie Matiza.
The chief executive will start work together with two other newly recruited directors — finance and human resources — as Government resets the parastatal in line with the drive to deliver targeted developmental projects.
Engineer Madanha said new structures and portfolios would be created to make the State entity both efficient and corruption-proof.
“As we restructure, there are some portfolios that we feel we need to fill, so you will see in the coming days we will be advertising for key personnel like loss control managers. We cannot have people stealing from Zinara and walking scot-free. They need to be prosecuted and we will make sure when we take such criminals to court, we will have enough evidence,” he said.
The current board intends to stabilise the institution after a spate of recent corruption-related scandals.
The former CEO was fired together with finance director Mr Simon Taranhike.
When she was appointed chief executive in September 2016, Eng Masiyiwa-Chamisa was replacing Engineer Moses Juma, who had been acting chief executive since 2014 when Frank Chitukutuku resigned unceremoniously.
Much of the work to reconfigure Zinara’s management was overseen by Mr Suston Muzenda, who was seconded from the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development.
During his six-month tenure he recruited Mr Gilfern Moyo, who replaced Mr Precious Murove as administration and human resources director; and Engineer Moses Chigonyati, who took over from Engineer Juma as technical director.
Ms View Mutize was hired to replace Ms Mathlene Mujokoro as corporate secretary, while Mr Garikai Mbanda was roped in to replace Mr Shadreck Matengabadza as audit manager.
In addition, Mr Naphtali Strauss Tembo has been recruited as the new finance manager.
The ongoing restructure and rationalisation is expected to plug revenue leakages and ensure that Zinara concentrates on its mandate.
As part of the staff rationalisation exercise, the administration seeks to downsize from the current 650 employees to around 450, a complement which Eng Madanha believes is proportionate to the current size of the organisation.
As a result, fixed-term contracts for 96 employees which had expired have not been renewed.
About 70 percent of the problems that affected the parastatal, Eng Madanha said, had been eliminated.
A forensic audit by Grant Thornton in 2017 exposed deep-seated rot and corporate malfeasance at Zinara, which prompted the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development to commission a team to study the report and come up with actionable recommendations.
The experts mainly raised the red flag on contracts entered between the public entity and Univern for the vehicle licensing system and the computerisation of the tolling system, transit system, road access, radio licence and fuel levy, among other irregularities.
The previous Wilfred Ramwi-led board also stands accused of approving the elevation of staff without the requisite qualifications.
Even former chief executive officer Mr Frank Chitukutuku’s qualifications could not be authenticated by forensic auditors as personal files were not released.
Further, senior members of staff reportedly paid themselves allowances that were not approved by the board and were contrary to their contracts of employment.
Government has since been advised to conduct a lifestyle audit of Zinara staff and to demand reimbursement from members of the previous board who were overpaid.
Action on falsified qualifications by some of the staffers is also being demanded.
Eng Madanha said Zinara will finance the construction of an additional Norton toll plaza to cater for the dualised Harare-Bulawayo highway, including the relocation of the Dema (Seke) tollgate and the reconstruction of the Skyline toll plaza.
“Our parent ministry has resolved that all tollgates in the country should have the same design, and as we rehabilitate our highways, we are adopting new designs, which will be uniform throughout the country, especially with security features that make it almost impossible to bypass a toll plaza,” Eng Madanha said.
The Skyline toll plaza, just outside Harare on the Masvingo highway, was destroyed during the January 2019 violence that rocked the country.
The new toll plaza is earmarked to be built across the Manyame River, “so that motorists cannot bypass it”.
Eng Madanha said no urban tollgates are planned for Harare, “at least not in the foreseeable future” as there are plans to consolidate revenue collection from the existing ones.
The Harare-Beitbridge highway, Eng Madanha added, is due for completion by 2023 as the road authority is seeking to add more contractors to ramp up construction.
“Currently, we have five contractors working on 20km each and that is not enough if we want to complete that road in the next three years. We need to engage more contractors to achieve this.”