FOUR NatPharm board members, including the chairman and his deputy appeared in court over the weekend facing allegations of failing to retire managing director, Florah Nancy Sifeko, when her tenure of office lapsed.
Board chairman Billy Rigava, his deputy Rachael Chibaya, board members Johnson Shonhe and Harunavamwe Notburga Chifamba appeared at the Harare Magistrates Court charged with criminal abuse of office.
They were all not asked to plead to the charges when they appeared before magistrate Victoria Mashamba, who remanded them to August 12 on $3 000 bail.
Circumstances leading to their arrest are that on June 1, 2006 Sifeku was appointed managing director for NatPharm under a renewable three-year contract.
Sifeku’s contract was renewed by the board up until her last contract, which started on June 1, 2015 to May 31, 2018.
The court heard that on July 31, 2018 former NatPharm chairman Dr George Washaya wrote a notice of retirement to Sifeku, which also said the board had taken notice of her age.
It is said the notice also outlined that Sifeku was no longer eligible for reappointment according to the Public Entities Corporate Governance Act after having served the organisation for 10 years.
The notice was also said to have served as extension of Sifeku’s contract from June 1, 2018 to November 30 of the same year.
On November 28, 2018 NatPharm received a circular from the Office of the President and Cabinet outlining procedure for termination of public entities’ chief executives who had served for more than 10 years as guided by the Public Entities Corporate Governance Act.
The court heard that the NatPharm Board chaired by Dr Washaya was dissolved leaving the pharmaceutical company to operate from October 2019 to June 2019 without a board.
Sifeku, according to the State, was reporting directly to the Minister of Health and Child Care.
On July 1, 2019 Natpharm appointed a board.
It is said on July 18 of the same year, a human resources committee meeting chaired by Chifamba was held and the issue of recruiting a new managing director was raised and captured in the minutes.
On November 30, Sifeku’s contract expired and she reportedly continued to work without a contract and President’s approval of her re-appointment.
The court heard that on November 30, 2019 NatPharm held a human resources committee meeting where the issue of recruiting a new managing director was raised and resolved that it be discussed in the main board meeting.
Accusations against the quartet are that they failed to terminate Sifeku’s employment, which was part of their duties.
During the time Sifeku continued to work, she received salaries and benefits amounting to $631 997 and US$2 865.