Sources in the CSC said army officials stationed at the Salary Services Bureau (SSB) and the Pension Office were the major focus of the probe. According to the insiders, the army officers, some of them with very senior ranks, are conniving with their colleagues at the KGVI military headquarters and the RGâ€™s office to produce fake identity documents that are then used to claim the terminal benefits that are supposed to go to the deceased employeesâ€™ dependents.
â€œThe net is closing in on these army guys who have always been a problem. It has come to our attention that the military personnel seconded to SSB and the Pension Office have for a very long time been involved in this scam.
â€œThey have been systematically diverting the terminal benefits to bank accounts that they would have created and then withdrawing the money in what seems like a widespread racket,â€ said a senior CSC employee.
A team from the army was recently recalled to ZNA HQ following the discovery of the scam, but it could not be established immediately if action had been taken against them. In that case, the army officers used their colleagues at KGVI, where identity documents are printed, to obtain a fake national identity card for a deceased civil service employee.
The sources said the ID was used to open a new bank account where the money was deposited after the terminal benefits were worked out and the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) issued a deduction order.
â€œThe initial account used by the deceased former soldier was closed when the army officials approached the bank and claimed that there was a problem with it. It seems banking staff were part of the scam, because it is not clear up to now why they allowed the new account to be opened without subjecting the matter to due checks and verification,â€ said a second informant.
Lump sum withdrawal
The new ID bore the names and other details of the deceased soldier. An associate of the army staff seconded to the Pension Office played the part of the relative processing the money. After the initial lump sum withdrawal amounting to more than $10,000, the culprits, said the sources, stopped checking the account activities and made no further withdrawals.
â€œEither unknown to the fraudsters or out of fear of being detected, money kept being deposited in the account as part of the terminal benefits and pension. This led to the account being â€œfloodedâ€ and the bank noticed it before approaching the Pension Office to find out why the money was not being withdrawn,â€ said the second source.
It was subsequently discovered that, in fact, the intended beneficiary had long passed away. Staff from the RGâ€™s office were fingered in the scandal, with the sources saying they also helped in the processing of fake ID documents for kickbacks.
Attempts to get a comment from Mariyawanda Nzuwah, the CSC boss, failed. But sources said the investigations involved a team comprising Pension Office staff, Nikuv, an Israeli company that has been doing consultancy for the RGâ€™s office, the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), the army and police.
â€œThis is a high-powered investigation team and heads are set to roll. It seems quite a number of senior government officers and bank employees are involved in this. There has always been a suspicion that there is such a racket but at no time has a strong team been constituted to probe the scam,â€ he added.
The sources said recommendations from the CSC to reform the SSB and Pension Office to remove bureaucracy as a way of reducing loopholes used in corruption have not been actioned. The resistance by senior management could indicate that the bosses were also benefiting from the corruption, they said.
Other sources said senior managers were receiving bribes to speed up applications for terminal benefits – whose completion can take years. The army PR section had not responded to questions by the time of going to print.