The two top-of-the range vehicles Professor Jonathan Moyo is alleged to have grabbed from the Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services are assets of the ministry still being used by officials in the Government’s information department, it has emerged. Prof Moyo only used the vehicle as an off-roader when he was the then Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister between 2014 and 2015.
Information, Media and Broadcasting Services secretary Mr George Charamba yesterday said Prof Moyo “punctually” surrendered the vehicle when he was redeployed to the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development.
He said the vehicle was then “promptly” released to the then Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Deputy Minister Monica Mutsvangwa, and is now being used by the sitting Deputy Minister Thokozile Mathuthu. “There is nothing to write home about concerning those two vehicles,” Mr Charamba said.
“They are there for anyone who is concerned to come and inspect. They are on our asset registers; they are in use by ministry officials including the deputy minister and, they will not leave the ministry. When the President redeployed Minister Moyo, he punctually surrendered the Prado he was using to the ministry. He would have never taken it because it is a ministry asset on the register.”
The other Prado vehicle (ADJ 0725) is being used by Mr Charamba and he would leave the car in the event that he is redeployed. Media reports indicated that the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission was probing Prof Moyo over the two vehicles. Mr Charamba said the two Prados were bought at the same time with Information and Media Panel of Inquiry (IMPI) vehicles and through CMED (Pvt) Ltd.
“Government released money to bail out the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Services, which had gone for months without paying its staff,” he said. “There was some money left after this exercise and as permanent secretary, I wrote to Finance Ministry requesting for permission to use the remainder from that sum to carry out an investigation into the media industry.
“That investigation had been decided on at our management meeting well before Prof Moyo was even minister. “When he came into the ministry, he found a position in place where there was a bad state of the media industry across genres and titles. It was important for us to do a formal inquiry so we could establish what it is that was undermining viability of the industry.”
He added: “The first thing we did when a new Cabinet was formed was to recommend that there be an inquiry and to his credit, Prof Moyo as the minister embraced the idea. Against that background, we were worried about the source of funding for that initiative and after we have paid out to ZBC, we wrote to the Secretary for Finance asking for leave to use the money that remained to finance that inquiry.
“The assets of the ministry by way of vehicles had dwindled quite badly. The last time we received a new fleet of vehicles was when Dr Gideon Gono was still Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. We were the first recipient department of those vehicles, such that by the beginning of 2014, literally the ministry was on its knees and even the vehicles for conditions of service, which are attainable from directors going upwards to the minister were not available.”
Mr Charamba said the problem was worse for ministers as they only had their official Mercedes-Benz vehicles. “But the dilemma always came when they went to constituencies and programmes in rural areas,” he said. “We did not have off-roaders. What we would then do was to hire from car hirers each time a minister wanted to attend a rural programme.
“In the case of Minister Moyo, each time he wanted to go to Bulawayo, it was impossible to use one Mercedes-Benz in Harare and Bulawayo at the same time. We ended up working with car hirers to a point where my budget bled. I was spending more on car hire than on running ministry programmes.” He said the ministry then took advantage of the IMPI programme, which also entailed purchase of a number of vehicles, to buy the two executive Prados.
This, Mr Charamba said, was meant to ensure the ministry would not continue bleeding its budget in trying to meet the travel requirements of the minister each time he had rural programmes. “In the case of the permanent secretary, I only had the personal issue vehicle. I had no duty vehicle,” he said.
“I wear two hats — one as permanent secretary and as Press secretary — which means I was using my personal issue vehicle as a duty vehicle. What is worse is when it was due for service, the transport officer would have to wait for a time when I was out of the country to have it serviced, otherwise it would mean I would stay without a vehicle when the car was being serviced.
“We decided that over and above the vehicles we would buy for IMPI, we buy two executive off-roaders. One, not for the minister but for use by the minister. The other one was for use by the permanent secretary and also to stand as a VIP vehicle in the event that we have a VIP visitor and we always had quite a number of ministers who were coming from the region.”
He said Information Ministry officials were not in the habit of consulting ministers when it came to expenditure. “The minister comes with his requests and we give them to the concerned civil servants,” Mr Charamba said.
“Ministers have to be far away from finances of the ministry as the earth is to the sun. These are decisions of a committee headed by the financial director. The vehicles were bought and for some strange reasons, the IMPI leadership thought the Prados were bought for them. There is no way they were going to drive vehicles for permanent secretaries’ grade.”
He said while it was the role of the media to expose corruption, journalists had to verify their facts. “I appreciate the role of the media in exposing corruption,” he said. “Indeed, that is a legitimate role for the media to play, but if you were to deal with that kind of story, you want to make sure you are on all fours so that your story is not challenged.
“If Minister Moyo has his own crosses to carry elsewhere, let him do so, but certainly in respect of Information Ministry, he walked the straight and narrow. It was not possible for him to breach rules because he was never allowed to be close to the financial rules of the ministry.” Prof Moyo, together with his deputy, Dr Godfrey Gandawa, stands accused of siphoning more than $400 000 from the Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund.-Herald