HARARE – At least 12 of Zimbabwe’s 40-plus diplomatic missions have been sued over salary arrears for staff and some have been put under legal notice for eviction over unpaid rentals.
Auditor-General Mildred Chiri said the situation was now grave.
The embassies recruit citizens of the host country or legal immigrants who have valid work permits to carry out duties such as cleaning, gardening, housework, driving and clerical work.
“In 12 missions namely: Stockholm, Paris, Beijing, Nairobi, New Delhi, Lilongwe, New York, Abuja, London, Algiers, Washington DC, Moscow and Accra there were breaches of labour laws of host countries,” Chiri’s report said, adding conditions of service and other benefits of local staff were regulated by the Civil Service Commission and host country labour laws.
The 12 embassies faced lawsuits for failing to adhere to the host country’s labour laws.
“The Zim-Paris mission was sued for unfair labour practices and was expected to pay damages estimated at €20 000 and wages for 10 months,” Chiri said.
“At Zim-Lilongwe, local staff reported the mission to the Office of the President and Cabinet and ministry of Foreign Affairs of host country for failing to pay arrear salaries and outstanding bonuses for 2015.”
Chiri also said loans disbursed to senior officers in foreign missions were not being recovered through Salary Service Bureau (SSB) as monthly deductions were not effected.
Some of the beneficiaries last made payments as far back as 2011.
“This was in violation of paragraph 3,5 of the Accounting Officer’s Instructions which states that repayments should be done timeously,” Chiri said.
Chiri also said rentals have also not been paid for the personal residences of the ambassadors.
Zimbabwe Ambassador to Senegal Trudy Stevenson risks being kicked out of the official residence owing to arrears in rentals.
“The Dakar mission rented both residential properties and the Chancery. At the time of audit on November 9, 2016, all of the property rentals were in arrears to the tune of $66 467 and a notice of termination of contract for the ambassador’s official residence had been issued by the landlord,” Chiri warned.
She said the Zim-Stockholm mission last paid rentals for the official residence and other officers’ houses in August 2016.
“This was despite clauses in the lease agreements that required rentals to be paid in advance. At the time of audit in November 2016, the rental arrears had accrued to $123 666.
“Four government houses, including the ambassador’s residence in Washington DC, were not recorded in the properties register. The title deeds to those properties were not availed for my audit inspection.”
Chiri also noted several malpractices among them $25 000 paid to a consulting firm by the Zim-Washington DC mission without following proper procurement procedures and regulations. The consultants were paid for inspecting and producing quotations for the ambassador’s house and the Chancery.
“The Zim-New York mission engaged a company to carry out interior painting of the ambassador’s official residence at a cost of $54 000 without following proper procurement procedures.”
Title deeds for Zim-Lilongwe Chancery on Plot No.13/22 “were not availed for audit examination”.
“I was therefore unable to verify whether the properties belonged to the government of Zimbabwe,” Chiri said.
The parliamentary committee on Foreign Affairs recently recommended that government reduces the foreign missions to a number it can sustain.
The decision to cut the missions can only be made by President Robert Mugabe.