HARARE – Former National Social Security Authority (NSSA) chairperson Robin Vela has described the recent High Court ruling, which nullified the forensic audit report at the pension fund, as a victory for those against abuse of power, political expediency and overreach.
Vela was named in the audit report undertaken by BDO Zimbabwe at the behest of the Auditor-General. But High Court Judge, Justice Webster Chinamora set aside the report and ordered a review of the same stating that it was biased, maliciously done and incomplete.
“I am delighted at the finding of the Zimbabwe High Court as it completely vindicates me. Some three years of being maligned for political expediency, especially when you are a professional in the prime years of your career, who depends on reputation and integrity, have been very, very hard. My reputation has been damaged and these spurious charges have affected me both financially and emotionally,” Vela said.
The banker said he was now engaging an international “defamation litigation dream team” to pursue damages against BDO International, the parent company of BDO Zimbabwe Chartered Accountants who conducted the investigation and whose conduct Justice Webster Chinamora determined “warranted censure” and against whom he awarded “punitive costs”.
“BDO International has a duty to ensure that their affiliates behave in a manner which is consistent with global auditing and accounting standards and is professional, credible and impartial. Recent events in South Africa have shown that professional services firms have a duty to behave ethically and with integrity. They cannot fob off their obligations by abrogating responsibility to local affiliates when things go wrong but talk about a ‘global network/ one firm’ when soliciting for engagement mandates. This has been established under the ‘State Capture Enquiry’ in South Africa where one of the big four chartered accountancy firms was taken to task,” Vela said.
Besides that, Vela said he was also targeting “actors who have sought to extort money (by perpetuating false and unsubstantiated fabricated defamatory stories against him) and who are currently protected by the offices they occupy.”
Vela turned to the court for relief in October last year after the now-discredited BDO Zimbabwe “forensic report” found NSSA had made investments that were not above board and had yielded losses; had concluded irregular take-off agreements that yielded losses; overpaid board fees; agreed a contract with Housing Corporation of Zimbabwe which yielded losses; and interfered in management processes. The forensic report fingered Vela, as non-executive chairperson of NSSA’s board, as being central to these “transgressions”.
In his court papers, Vela argued that the decisions attributed to him were board decisions.
In a damning judgment issued on June 17, 2020, Justice Webster Chinamora agreed with Vela and found the “investigation leading to the report was biased and that the auditors did not apply their minds to issues before them”.
“It is worth emphasizing that the inaccuracies in the report speak to failure to apply one’s mind to the issues for determination before it,” Justice Chinamora wrote in his judgement.