Vusumuzi Dube, Senior Reporter
FOUR Bulawayo councillors have been implicated in an alleged tender scandal after a prospective parking management company allegedly pampered them with five-star hotel junkets among other goodies, Sunday News can exclusively reveal.
The councillors’ Harare “trip of shame” is suspected to be part of a plot by the company to sway the vote in its favour for a car parking management tender in Bulawayo. The tender issue has also raised the ire of the Bulawayo Residents Association.
The Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association has since written to the Town Clerk, Mr Christopher Dube, demanding that the four councillors be investigated and the implicated company disqualified from any future dealings with the local authority.
The letter, signed by BPRA co-ordinator, Mr Emmanuel Ndlovu, was also copied to Bulawayo Mayor, Councillor Solomon Mguni, Deputy Mayor Clr Tinashe Kambarami, Chamber Secretary Mrs Sikhangele Zhou, Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission, Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Local Government and the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe.
“We are worried about the information that four Bulawayo councillors had prior secret meetings with (name withheld) at a hotel in Harare, where the company met the hotel expenses for the councillors. The major concern is, why were the meetings held under ‘darkness cover’ of the public and why were hotel bills for the councillors met by an interested party? We feel the conduct of the councillors concerned as public officials is tantamount to criminal abuse of office which is criminalised in terms of Section 174 of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act, (Chapter 9:23),” wrote Mr Ndlovu.
The residents association called on council and the relevant authorities to institute an investigation on the four. Bulawayo acting Town Clerk, Mrs Zhou confirmed that they had received information regarding the alleged conduct of the four councillors and were carrying out investigations to get to the bottom of the matter.
“We have since instructed our audit team to carry out the necessary investigations to come out with the facts on this issue. What we are saying is allegations can be made, but it is now a matter of deducing the facts of these allegations,” said Mrs Zhou.
Evidence gathered by Sunday News in a four-week investigation revealed that the quartet was booked into a Harare hotel (name withheld) and all hotel expenses, which amounted to $1 860 were met by the parking company which is jostling to win a tender in Bulawayo. This publication is also in possession of room numbers where the four were booked. According to documents seen by this publication, the four were booked at the hotel on 9 May 2019 and checked out the following day in the morning. They were also taken for a tour of the company’s operations.
Sunday News contacted the four councillors in the eye of the storm and they all denied having met the implicated company officials. When this publication sought a comment from the parking company, its officials also denied any wrong doing.
The parking management services tender in Bulawayo was cancelled in 2012 after what the local authority termed “a shambolic tendering process”. This was after the local authority had awarded the tender to Megalithic Marketing Private Limited, resulting in a long court battle with the company contesting council’s decision to cancel the tender.
In April last year, the local authority shortlisted two companies — Ducretion Logistics Private Limited and Lauvax Trading Private Limited trading as Propark — for consideration to manage the city’s parking where motorists would pay for parking for a prescribed period, starting from an hour. The two companies were to share different sites within the city, but the deal was never finalised.
The parking management tender has taken seven years to be implemented and was only revived last year after then ward Six councillor (now Makokoba MP), James Sithole filed a motion where he noted that the legal wrangle was almost at its end, hence they should re-tender the project to help enhance revenue collection and service delivery.
“In an effort to boost revenue for the City of Bulawayo, we flighted a tender more than six years ago for Parking Management Services from reputable companies. Due to some irregularities in the process this matter ended up in the courts . . . Bulawayo City Council has therefore lost several opportunities such as 400 jobs that could have been created, meaning the survival of 400 households and parking revenue in the region of $10 million. I propose that council proceeds as a matter of urgency to re-tender for the parking management services since the legal wrangle has been concluded so that we can achieve revenue enhancement and improved service delivery,” reads part of the motion.
The initial bidding process brought the city’s tendering system under scrutiny, with accusations of corruption among councillors and council directors flying around.
First, Easipark, the South African company that was favourite to clinch the parking deal, was disqualified on allegations of attempting to bribe members of the procurement board to swing the bid in its favour.
The company was readmitted and the tendering process re-done after consultations among stakeholders. Easipark was disqualified again, after it failed to attend a compulsory tender briefing meeting, which then saw Megalithic being awarded the tender.