Tourism minister Priscah Mupfumira has denied allegations of prejudicing the economy of over $100 million dollars insisting her conscience is clear and her hands are clean.
Mupfumira Friday night pleaded not guilty to charges of using social security money for personal political campaigns, diverting public funds to dubious investments and purchasing top-of-the-range vehicles against protocol.
The Cabinet minister is facing seven charges bordering on economic prejudice during the time she was Minister of Labour and Social Welfare.
“She did not benefit anything in her personal capacity from all the alleged offences involving National Social Security Authority (NSSA) funds,” argued her defense counsel led by David Chinyama.
He spoke as Mupfumira was remanded in custody after State applied for the Tourism minister to be further detained for 21 days pending finalisation of investigations.
The State said it fears Mupfumira, 68, will conceal or destroy evidence if released.
Acting magistrate Munamato Mutevedzi is set to deliver ruling on the State application 10am Saturday morning.
However, through her lawyer, Mupfumira dismissed the charges as a fabrication.
“The state relies on what it terms verbal directives. No cent went to the accused. Nssa is an authority run by a board of directors. No money is released to anyone without authority of the board not (even) from a government minister,”Chibaya argued.
“On the issue of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), the person who is responsible for authorising any increment for CSR is the board,” Chinyama added.
“We are being told there was a verbal directive by the accused but that can’t be directed to a board. One would wonder if there was ever such a directive,” Chinyama continued.
“What we have here is purely a civil matter between Nssa and MetBank which is being brought to criminal courts through the back door. It is wrong.”
“The accounting officer has to come and explain these payments. Nssa is run by a board of directors which approves any disbursements before money is released,” argued Chinyama.
The State represented by Michael Reza, alleged Mupfumira used her ministerial position to direct NSSA to pay large sums of money while some of it was allegedly paid to her personal company which was not disclosed in court.
The State alleges that sometime in 2014 following her appointment as a minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Mupfumira corruptly used her position by verbally instructing the then permanent secretary of the ministry, Ngoni Masoka, to get a loan advance of US$90 000 from NSSA for the purchase of her vehicle, a Toyota Land Cruiser.
The State also alleges in 2014 she showed favour to Metbank when she instructed NSSA to financially bail out the bank and in the process NSSA bought properties from Met Bank worth US$4 904 750.
Through her defense counsel Mupfumira said she did not receive any money corruptly as alleged by the State.
She further said in respect of the vehicle loan, she was not in a position to apply for such loan from NSSA but that was done by the Permanent Secretary of her ministry.
“The minister is not an accounting officer of her ministry. If there was an application for a loan to purchase a vehicle that application was not done by the minister but by the Permanent Secretary of the ministry. Further to that the vehicles were not allocated by her but the ministry,” Chinyama said.
“If there was an abuse of office it should be the Permanent Secretary. The Permanent Secretary does not report to the minister but to the Office of the President and Cabinet. Therefore if NSSA wants to claim any money it should look at government for repayment since it is NSSA’s major shareholder.”
Chinyama added State documents were clear in that they were showing who paid the money and where the cash was paid to.
“She did not receive any cash except serve for a few transactions which indicated that she was paid money for allowances while on government duty,” Chinyama said.-zimpost