PROCUREMENT Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (PRAZ) bosses were yesterday grilled in Parliament over procurement procedures for COVID-19 equipment amid allegations of high-level corruption, which recently led to the arrest of Health and Child Care minister Obadiah Moyo.
PRAZ chief executive officer Nyasha Chizu, however told the Zanu PF Felix Mhona-led Finance and Budget Committee that the authority was not responsible for procurement but just gave guidelines to procurement entities in different government departments.
He accused the procurement entity in the Ministry of Health of flouting COVID-19 procurement guidelines issued by his organisation.
Moyo was arrested last month over a US$60 million tender scam after he allegedly authorised the procurement of COVID-19 test kits by a shadowy company, Drax International without going to tender. It later turned out the company had overpriced its supplies and was not a registered drug manufacturer but just a consultancy firm.
Chizu said although COVID-19 was an emergency, procurement of consumables was supposed to be done following the same procedures as procurement of common items.
“As PRAZ we are not directly involved in procurement, but we issued guidelines on circular number one which said we needed to coordinate procurement so that items such as sanitisers are bought from provinces instead of at central level,” Chizu said.
“In respect of COVID-19 procurement, the Ministry of Health was conducting procurement themselves and it was done at central level when we had directed that it must be at provincial level.”
Chizu said some of the challenges faced in procurement processes included sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe which forced the country to do major procurements through third parties. He said other challenges were foreign currency shortages and that banks did not have links with international financial institutions through which to make payments.
But opposition MPs rubbished the sanctions excuse as a ruse.
“How factual is that sanctions hinder procurement relating to emergency equipment like COVID-19? In any case the major suppliers of COVID-19 items are India and China which have not imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe. The major challenge is that you might want to use that excuse to procure through third parties,” Hatfield MP Tapiwa Mashakada (MDC Alliance) said.
Dzivarasekwa MP Edwin Mushoriwa (MDC Alliance) added, “If you gave procurement guidelines did you then make a follow up to monitor the procurement process or you just folded your arms?”
Chizu’s response was that the new Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Act limited the powers of PRAZ to post audit review only and hence the need to review the law to strengthen the powers of the regulatory authority.
“Our role is supervisory and the responsibilities of procurement have been placed on accounting officers. We identified that there were some gaps in the law with respect to emergency procurements like COVID-19. The law was silent and we have proposed amendments to the Act which are now before the Attorney-General,” Chizu said.
Zvimba South MP Phillip Chiyangwa (Zanu PF) then suggested that the committee must visit PRAZ to dig more on what exactly transpired with COVID-19 procurements given the tender scams unearthed so far.