Air Zimbabwe bosses to be grilled over insurance fraud

Grounded: Airline executives are implicated in aviation insurance manipulation involving millions of dollars. (flickr)

Grounded: Airline executives are implicated in aviation insurance manipulation involving millions of dollars. (flickr)

Troubled national carrier Air Zimbabwe will haul its top ­managers before a disciplinary hearing this week, following the freezing of their salaries over allegations of mismanagement that has caused the airline to lose millions of dollars.

The managers have been ­suspended since June last year, after a forensic audit exposed the possible manipulation of aviation insurance policies by past and present managers that could have prejudiced the state-run airline of millions between 2009 and 2013.

The airline's appointment of international firm Navistar Insurance Brokers in 2009 to handle the insurance of its planes is said to have violated the airline's tender regulations, and Navistar is accused of "fraudulently" overcharging premiums by €5.1-million over a four-year period.

The audit report said some of the insurance premiums were not remitted, and for a few months Air Zimbabwe flew without insurance.

Air Zimbabwe's fleet of eight planes is insured for $750-million per aircraft per incident. Former chief executive Peter Chikumba, who left the airline in 2011, has also been drawn into the saga, but it is not clear whether he will appear before the disciplinary committee.

Chikumba has already been questioned by auditors. Those to appear before the hearing this Friday include suspended group chief executive Innocent Mavhunga, who together with Chikumba was accused of approving irregular payments.

Auditors question insurance deals
Suspended acting managing director Grace Pfumbidzayi will also appear, as auditors question her role in apparently murky insurance deals while reporting to both Mavhunga and Chikumba as ­company secretary.

Other senior managers who have been mentioned and may appear are Nicholas Munjeri, the general manager for finance; Cephas Tarenyika, general manager of technical services; and passenger manager Moses Mapanda.

Mavhunga refused to comment on Wednesday, saying: "Talk to the chairman."

Air Zimbabwe board chairman Ozias Bvute could not be contacted.
Movement for Democratic Change MP Eddie Cross said in November that the fortunes of the airline were improving, mainly because of an opaque deal it had reached to lease two Airbuses from the Far East.

"I have it on good authority that the Far East company is a front for diamonds firm Mbada Diamonds.

"What we might be witnessing is privatisation by stealth. The deal is working quite well because services are good and the airline is back on its feet, but the deal is not transparent and has not been made public," Cross said at the time.

Air Zimbabwe's public relations department did not respond to questions.

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