THE Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Praz) yesterday distanced itself from the murky Covid-19 medical equipment procurement scandal, which is now at the centre of a wide-ranging investigation by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc).
ANDREW KUNAMBURA/MELODY CHIKONO/BRIDGET MANANAVIRE
Praz also said it has played no role in the controversial procurement of more than 600 buses by the government for the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco) in recent months.
The government early this month went out of its way to authorise payment of nearly US$1 million for a consignment of Covid-19 equipment at an inflated cost from Drax International, a company reportedly linked to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s son Collins and little-known businessman Delish Nguwaya.
Collins distanced himself from the company in a press statement in which he also denied knowing Nguwaya. However, pictures of Collins with Nguwaya have been trending on social media.
The procurement scandal deepened this week after both the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance George Guvamatanga and his principal Mthuli Ncube distanced themselves from the controversial deal while appearing before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Budget and Finance.
The two Treasury officials also distanced themselves from the equally murky Zupco bus procurement deal which has seen President Mnangagwa’s adviser Kuda Tagwirei raking in millions of dollars in profit.
Tagwirei’s company, Landela Investments, has been acquiring buses for Zupco for the mass public transportation system, contrary to claims by public officials that the vehicles were directly sourced by the government. Landela has sourced 162 buses.
The government initially signed a hire purchase agreement with Landela Investments, but will now pay the company ZW$863,2 million (US$34,5 million at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s official exchange rate of US$1:ZW$25) for the 162 buses.
Landela is selling each bus to the government for US$212 962. The Zimbabwe Independent has revealed that the company bought each 64-seater bus from Xiamen Golden Dragon Bus Company in China for US$58 900.
Last week, the Independent reported that cabinet ministers were evasive after being asked to explain the deal between the government and Landela Investments. The buses are now being sold to a state-owned company at inflated prices.
Both Local Government and Public Works minister July Moyo and his Transport counterpart Joel Biggie Matiza, distanced themselves from the bus deal and referred questions to the Ministry of Finance and Praz, which have, in turn, referred all questions back to the line ministries.
Appearing before the parliamentary committee on Wednesday this week, Ncube said it was government departments and ministries which handled procurement processes and not Treasury.
He also denied responsibility for yet another deal involving Namibia-based company Jaji Investments which supplied Covid-19 test kits amounting to US$66 000.
Information on social media suggests the company did not deliver the material despite payments having been made.
It was also alleged the company was linked to one of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s bodyguards and had used a non-existent physical address.
“Treasury is not responsible for the procurement; it is government departments and ministries that run procurement processes with the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe and there are rules to be followed and our job as Treasury was to avail what needs to be paid,” Ncube told MPs.
But Praz chief executive officer Nyasha Chizu, in a statement to the Independent yesterday, said the state procurement agency did not play a direct role in the approval of tenders. He said it was the procuring entities that would budget, plan, advertise and select the winning bidder.
However, the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act (PPDPA) (Chapter 22:14) specifies that any deal of that magnitude can only be done through Praz.
“If the value of the tender exceeds the stipulated threshold specified in the General Regulations, the law requires that before the procuring entity awards a procurement contract to the winning bidder, it shall bring the documentation outlining the process undertaken to the Special Procurement Oversight Committee (SPOC) for scrutiny,” Chizu said.
“The SPOC therefore scrutinises whether proper procurement procedure was undertaken from the budgeting, procurement planning, advertising, selection and award to the proposed winning bidder. SPOC is only involved if the transaction is a procurement transaction of a certain financial threshold.”
He declined to answer questions on whether due diligence was observed in all the deals, referring the Independent back to line ministries.
According to Chizu, the standard procedure is that neither Praz nor the procuring entities are mandated to know the individuals behind the awarded companies.
If that is allowed, he argued, this could raise concerns about corruption, nepotism, unfairness and inefficiencies in the awarding of public tenders.
In the case of Drax, which was established less than six months ago, but has since clinched a big-money deal, Chizu said it was possible that a new company could be awarded a tender if it met the criteria.
“In terms of Section 28 of the PPDPA Act, every procuring entity shall specify the criteria of award of a contract that includes the qualification criteria of suppliers. The objectives of Section 4 of the PPDPA Act require that public procurement processes are fair, transparent, competitive and cost-effective. It is therefore possible that a newly established company is awarded a contract if it meets the criteria specified in the tender document,” he said.
“The primary requirement for participation in tenders is registration by the Authority to demonstrate that the company is properly registered. Provisions of Section 28 now apply in relation to each type of procurement to determine the levels of competencies required by the procuring entity for bidders to possess to qualify for the award of the tender.”
The endless washing of hands by ministers and the state procurement agency has left many questioning on who really is behind the murky deals.
Zacc chairperson Justice Loice Matanda-Moyo said the anti-graft watchdog is now seized with investigating the controversial deals.
“Zacc is investigating all Covid-19 issues and we already have some documents which we are examining. I haven’t looked at them yet, but we have received a lot of these documents and some have even been obtained from outside the country,” Justice Matanda-Moyo said.
She would not disclose the countries.“I cannot disclose which countries have been co-operating with us because we don’t want to jeopardise investigations, but what I can tell you for now is that our officers are investigating all those issues and we will make a statement at the most appropriate time.”
Garikai Mushininga, a medical doctor based in Namibia, who said he is the managing director of Jaji Investments, this week claimed his business dealings were above board and denied any links to Mnangagwa.
“I formed my two companies, Kalahari Health Care and Jaji Investments in 2013 and they have been trading well before Mnangagwa became President. How then is he involved in my business? I have been supplying medical equipment in Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia for several years now and everything is above board,” he said.
He denied social media reports that he delivered the Covid-19 test kits at inflated prices, saying they were sold at prices much cheaper than others.
Mushininga said contrary to the reports, the kits were delivered directly from China to Harare by international courier, DHL.
“What happened with those test kits is that I sourced them directly from China and they were flown to Zimbabwe by DHL. They never passed through Namibia as has been claimed. I used my own savings to procure them and this was in early April when the government didn’t have anything. I supplied the kits at US$14,75 per kit against the US$20 now charged by other suppliers,” he said.