Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor—
ZIFA board member Tavengwa Hara’s decision to break ranks with his colleagues by admitting he was paid by the association on the day the Warriors hosted Guinea has exposed the domestic football leaders’ attempts to cover their tracks in the scandal that they manipulated figures to try and balance their books. The Bulawayo lawyer became the first ZIFA board member to admit he was paid on the night that Zimbabwe played Guinea as the tsunami triggered by accusations proceeds from gate receipts could have been abused continues to gather momentum.
The Herald revealed that four ZIFA board members were paid $2 800, in “Board Expenses”, from funds generated from gate-takings while another $1 200 was also taken to pay for the officials’ travel and subsistence. However, Hara, who feels he needs to protect his reputation as a lawyer, said he was given $400, which was brought to his hotel in the capital by fellow ZIFA board member, John Phiri, on the night of the 2017 Nations Cup qualifier.
“I can confirm that I was paid $400 and I have sent an e-mail to ZIFA about that so that it’s clarified as to how much I received,” said Hara, who says the money was meant for his travel costs back to his home in Bulawayo and other costs that he had incurred. “There is an audit that is being carried out by the Sports Commission on that issue and I have already sent an e-mail to the ZIFA offices to confirm exactly how much I received.”
Hara says he was not aware of the other $1 200 that was drawn, for the ZIFA officials, for travel and subsistence although he was aware that $2 800 was withdrawn from the gate-takings for the board members. Crucially, his admission that he was paid $400 on Sunday night after the match exposes ZIFA officials who have been trying to cover up their tracks amid questions, around the country, related to the questionable income and expenditure statement they issued after the game against Guinea.
Hara’s admission that he was paid, to cover for his travel and related costs, brings to fore a number of big questions: Why did ZIFA not include, in their income and expenditure statement, that they took some money to pay their board members, be it $400, which Hara received, or the $1 000 per board member, which the media has been claiming?
- Given that this was an expenditure, which was plucked from gate-takings, why is it that it is not reflected on the official income/expenditure statement which ZIFA released just two days after that match? Doesn’t this single transaction show, if ever there was any need to find confirmation that the figures which the association released were doctored, that there was gross manipulation of the income/expenditure statement to suit certain interests, within the ZIFA board, and justify their claims that they ran a loss by hosting that big game?
- If ZIFA were so desperate to cover up what they paid their board members, to the extent that they didn’t show those figures on the income/expenditure statement, what else did they conceal which should have been reflected by their figures?
- Why would a ZIFA board member (John Phiri), whose portfolio has to do with development, be the one who delivers money to a fellow Board Member, in the dead of the night, when these transactions should be conducted openly for accountability purposes? Where was the ZIFA finance manager who should, ordinarily, be disbursing such amounts and doesn’t the fact that the money could only be paid, around 10pm, provide confirmation that it could only have been generated from the gate-takings?
- Given the holes that are now being blown into that income and expenditure statement, isn’t the public right to now question, as they do, that ZIFA might have realised even more than the $88 000 they declared to have grossed from gate receipts from the big match?
The Zimbabwe National Soccer Supporters Association, who have been heavily critical of the way the funds that were generated from the gates during the Zimbabwe/Guinea game were used, last night saluted Hara for coming out in the open. “We salute Hara for coming out in the open to say that, look gentlemen, this is what I received, as far as I am concerned, and he believes that he was supposed to get that money, to cover his costs and, therefore, everything, according to him, was above board,” ZNSSA said.
“He also said he is aware of the $2 800 and he only received $400 for his costs and we applaud the stance that he has taken because that is the only way we can get to the bottom of this matter. “But what becomes very clear is that these figures were not factored in the expenses that ZIFA incurred for the match, and that is what should worry all of us, because we did not see them on the income/expenditure statement that ZIFA released last week even though they were related to the match in question and the money came from the gate takings.
“What this does is that it tells all of us that the income/expenditure statement that ZIFA released was a ghost account of what really happened with the money that was generated from the gates and how it was used and, every day, we are getting closer and closer to knowing what happened in that cash room and after the money was transferred, in cash, to various people.”
ZIFA president Cuthbert Dube this week questioned why some of his board members ended up in the cash room, after the match, saying that it was an insult to the corporate governance ethics they should uphold. He also questioned the authority, which gave the Secretariat the mandate to disburse the funds generated from gate receipts, without being given the green light by his board to go ahead and make the various payments to service providers.
It has emerged that there are a number of ghost payments, which ZIFA claimed to have dished out to service providers, and the Sports Commission are expected to issue a report on their investigations on Monday after seizing all transactions related to that match.