Govt in curious local councils tender deal

Source: Govt in curious local councils tender deal – NewsDay Zimbabwe July 6, 2017

GOVERNMENT has, in a move that has raised eyebrows, ordered 16 urban and rural councils to unilaterally surrender their data management systems to Univern Enterprises, without going to tender.

By Tatenda Chitagu

The directive is contained in a leaked October 5, 2016 letter signed by Local Government ministry secretary, George Mlilo, and addressed to town clerks and secretaries of various local authorities.

To authenticate the directive, Mlilo attached a letter from the State Procurement Board (SPB) giving blanket approval for councils’ “direct engagement with Univern Enterprises”.

The SPB letter, dated September 13, 2016, was signed by the assistant principal director identified as S Mutanhaurwa.
The affected councils are Harare, Gweru, Masvingo, Mutare, Chitungwiza, Chinhoyi, Victoria Falls, Norton, Zvishavane, Chipinge, Rusape, Beitbridge, Ruwa, Epworth, Hwange and Chirundu.

Univern, whose director, Musekiwa Kumbula, once worked as a communications consultant for Zanu PF, sometimes trades as Southern Region Trading Company (SRTC) and has been contracted by the government to manage the Zimbabwe National Roads Authority’s (Zinara) call centre, tollgates and communications systems.

Mlilo yesterday confirmed issuing the directive.

“Yes, I wrote the letter, what controversy did Univern do?” (sic) he asked, before terminating the call.

Part of the letter read: “Univern Enterprises has had contact with your councils at various levels over the past year in relation to the systems of eGovernment. As the SPB has now given a blanket approval for engagements, the ministry would like your council to speed up the process of engagement so as to introduce elements of eGovernment for the purposes of improving data bases, management of resources and revenue collection.

“Please submit monthly updates on progress made in finalising contracts with Univern for the commencement of eGovernment to the principal director,” Mlilo said.

In the SPB letter, addressed to the deputy chief secretary to the President and Cabinet, Raymond Ndhlukula, Mutanhaurwa gives blanket approval for Univern to be contracted by the Transport and Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation ministries, as well as the Local Government ministry.

Mutanhaurwa’s letter to Ndhlukula reads: “The SPB, having reviewed the accounting officer’s submission in line with SI 126 of 2015 has, through PBR 0859 of September 8, 2016, resolved that: There is ‘no objection’ to the accounting officer’s request for direct engagement of Univern Enterprises P/L on the ZIMTIS Project. The accounting officer should report to the board the project costs for each element to facilitate calculation of administration fees in line with SI 159 of October 12, 2012.”

Masvingo town clerk, Adolf Gusha, professed ignorance over the letter.

“I do not know of that letter and we haven’t received it,” he said, although some council employees, who requested anonymity, acknowledged receipt of the letter.

In 2012, Univern won a tender to supply 40 motorised graders worth $8 million to Zinara.

However, controversy rocked the deal after rural district councils that received the equipment said they were given “snow graders”, which could not carry out the task at hand.