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Vehicle auction scam rocks Mutare City Council

MUTARE – SENIOR employees and managers at Mutare City Council are in the eye of a storm for allegedly being part of a syndicate that is stripping engines and parts from council vehicles meant for auction.

The syndicate, involving some mechanics and artisans has been allegedly stripping parts and removing overhauled engines from council vehicles that are due for auction prejudicing council of thousands of US$ dollars.

Zim Morning Post established that the suspects would remove engines in good working condition from the vehicles and earmark the shells (body) of the vehicles for auction.

The engines and parts are allegedly sold to unsuspecting buyers, with the suspected council employees pocketing the proceeds.

Further investigations exposed that some council mechanics would repair vehicles under council’s budget to perfect standards and then set the vehicles for auction, where targeted buyers working in cahoots with the workshop staff would benefit.

A total number of 51 vehicles are due for auction.

Reached for comment, Mutare Mayor Blessing Tandi said he was in a meeting and would call back.

Tandi did not respond to questions sent to him via WhatsApp, despite reading them.

Mutare City Council Spokesperson Spren Mutiwi also did not comment despite repeated efforts and reminders.

Mutare City Council insiders have expressed outrage over the scam. “The council is facing poor service delivery and they are arguing that there are no resources and equipment, yet, there are tractors that are in perfect condition and they are surprisingly set for an auction. Something is not right,” said a source within council.

Some named managers and senior employees are alleged to have targeted some of the vehicles, especially trucks and Lorries, to use them at their farms and plots.

A named manager has shown interest on a Massey Ferguson tractor with number plates AAE7269 and another lorry a Nissan UD 95 with number plate AAE7288 is said to be a non-runner yet it was overhauled.

The engine of the tractor was recently overhauled and is a perfect runner.

Investigations have revealed that Nissan CPB14 1994 model had an engine overhaul but in council’s records it is labelled a non-runner.

A Nissan Cabal AAE 7297is also marked for an auction and it is allegedly marked a non-runner yet it had an engine overhaul.

Others suspicious vehicles that are due for the auction include Mazda B1600 (AAE 7275), Mazda B2200 SDX (AAE 7289), Mazda Bongo (ABA 9217), Mazda B1800 (AAE 7255) and a New Holland Grader.

Other vehicles in question include Nissan Wolf ZD 30 (ABP 4260), Nissan Wolf AAG 0072, Nissan Wolf ABM 5092 and Toyota Land Cruiser ADH 1761.

“What is the rational for repairing a vehicle to perfect standards and then decide to auction the same vehicle. Some of the vehicles are marked non-runners yet they are runners,” insiders have said.

City Engineer Maxwell Kerith in his memorandum to the Finance Director, Blessing Chafesuka dated 02 December 2019, in possession of this publication wrote: “there are a number of vehicles in the workshop and some which are on the road have since surpassed their useful life span. These vehicles are now causing the council to incur huge maintenance and repair costs. Some of these vehicles are on breakdown while some are on the road.”

In the memorandum, Kerith recommended: “The above mentioned vehicles and machines need to be auctioned; the proceeds from the auction can be used to procure new vehicles. Some of the vehicles have lower repair costs, but, due to the age and time on the breakdown their maintenance costs will become higher once they are repaired.”

The auction scam comes after Mutare City senior employees are embroiled in a messy second hand car import and purchasing scam after details emerged that they took delivery of luxury vehicles supplied by a dubious local car dealer, who illicitly imported stolen vehicles without paying customs duty.

It is alleged that sometime last year council bought two Toyota RAV 4 vehicles at US$15 000 each and a Nissan Navara for US$35 000 through a car dealer named as Sam’s Car Dealers without going to tender.

In a case that could prove to be a big test to the local authority’s resolve to fight corruption, it is alleged that Mutare City Council senior employees formed a well-orchestrated syndicate to purchase three vehicles allegedly stolen from South Africa at very inflated prices contravening the council’s equipment purchasing procedures.

The syndicate is alleged to have pocketed thousands of dollars through the purchasing of the vehicles without a full council resolution and going through procurement process and tender, as required by the government policy.

Magwegwe is alleged to have put fake number plates on the stolen vehicles.

CID Mutare is investigating the issue.

In another scam Mutare city senior employees were sometime this year hauled before a city magistrate following their arrest by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) for allegedly authorizing the repair of a private vehicle belonging to a council employee out of the local authority’s budget without any paperwork.

City Director of Engineering Services Maxwell Kerith (38) and Patrick Magwegwe (34) who is acting workshop manager, face criminal abuse of office charges.

They were remanded out of custody on $2 000 bail each. They are denying the charges.

Prosecutor Tirivanhu Mutyasira told the court that sometime in 2018, Vengai Tamirepi who works in the city council as Superintendent for Odzani Water Works was duly authorised to use his personal vehicle,

Honda Fit, registration number AEA 3334, to carry out some official business after a council vehicle allocated to Odzani Water Works had broken down.

The condition for the use of the vehicle was that Tamirepi draws 20 litres of fuel from council once every week.

Court was told that from 2018 to date, Tamirepi has been using his car under the arrangement.

However, sometime in June 2020, the vehicle developed a mechanical fault. Tamirepi approached Kerith requesting to have his car fixed under the city’s budget.

Kerith referred Tamirepi to Magwegwe with an instruction to obtain assistance. Court was further told the vehicle was repaired without the necessary paperwork authorizing the repair.

The vehicle was repaired by the council mechanic for three days.