Consultant loses US$294m suit 

Source: Consultant loses US$294m suit | The Herald 03 FEB, 2020

Consultant loses US$294m suit

Fidelis Munyoro Chief Court Reporter

A consultancy firm’s bid to claim U$294 million after it inflated an invoice for payment of quantity surveyor services and ancillary works it provided for the construction of Great Zimbabwe University (GZU) main campus structures failed after the High Court tossed out the claim.

ABS Consultancy and its business partners, Mukorombindo Associates, charged US$24 million for rendering quantity surveyor services for the construction of a Heritage Centre and Administration block at GZU.

However, on claiming payment, ABS issued an invoice for US$294 million.

At the end of the consultancy firm’s case, Justice Edith Mushore, said there was no evidence which proves that GZ was obliged to pay the hefty amount for the work done.

Instead, Justice Mushore upheld the GZU application for absolution from instance.

“It is also inconceivable that a building site can expand all by itself, so the enlarged scope of works of 60 000m² and 81 234 74m² upon which the fee in the present matter was based is pure fiction,” ruled Justice Mushore.

“In my view, there is no case for the first defendant (GZU) to answer.”

Justice Mushore noted that ABS’ evidence was not credible at all, while the documentary evidence shown in court declared war on the plaintiff’s witnesses, resulting in the firm’s case imploding all by itself.

“It is my finding that the first defendant is entitled to absolution from instance,” she said.

“I, therefore, order as follows: The first defendant application for absolution from the instance be and is hereby granted with costs.”

GZU disputed the US$294m figure, arguing the fee claimed by the consultancy firm was inflated.

The university said ABS calculated its fee against an area of space larger than the area which required construction.

It insisted that in 2010 it received costings from ABS in which it quoted US$24 million and the US$294 million was based on incorrect measurements and drawings which overinflated the measurements upon which the administration block and heritage centre were meant to occupy.

According to the agreement between the parties, ABS would render quantity surveying and ancillary works on 5 759m² for the administration block and 28 300m squared for the Heritage Centre, but the firm made its calculations based on 60 000m² and 81 234m² respectively.

The ABS claim for fees using the drawings for the enlarged areas sparked the wrangle which spilled into the High Court, with the firm seeking to enforce payment.

This was after GZU Vice Chancellor Professor Rungano Zvobgo queried the inexplicable difference in the firm’s initial quotation and in the fees ABS sought to charge.