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How Clerk of Parliament bungled costly laptops deal



COURT papers reveal how Clerk of Parliament Kennedy Mugove Chokuda (pictured) bungled the infamous deal for the purchase of 173 laptops at a cost of US$3 076 each, which was way above the market price, resulting in an outcry by legislators, sparking a public outcry.


Chokuda (56) was arrested by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) on Thursday over the matter together with Stanely Bhebhe (51), Parliament’s director of procurement.

According to court documents outlining two counts of criminal abuse of office, Chokuda is accused of acting contrary to and inconsistent with his duties as a public officer by negotiating a price reduction of the computers with a company which had put forward its bid.

He also issued an unsigned standard bidding document to selected bidders specifying the brand of laptops required.

The state said Chokuda should have followed section 52 of the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (Praz) which stipulates the conduct of an accounting officer in a case where the price of the lowest evaluated responsive bidder exceeds the budget.

“The accounting officer, (Chokuda) should have simply cancelled the contract and re-retendered but he went on to negotiate price reduction showing favour to winning bidders and disfavor to other bidders.

“By so doing, the accused person acted unlawfully,” reads part of the charge sheet.

Circumstances surrounding the case as outlined in the charge sheet are that on 17 June 2022, Parliament flighted an advert inviting interested bidders to supply and deliver 173 laptops and 79 desktops at US$3 076 each with a total value of US$243 052.59 payable at the interbank rate.

However, Treasury refused to release the payment, citing the unusually high prices. The prices caused an outcry from legislators and members of the public.

In September 2022, Stanely Bhebhe the director of procurement originated a letter on the instructions of Chokuda to Praz asking for authority to negotiate a price reduction.

Bhebhe instructed Rudo Doka, the director of external relations, to append her signature on behalf of Chokuda who was in Bulawayo for a workshop.

However, in its reply, Praz advised Parliament that negotiating a price reduction is contrary to section 52 of the Procurement Act which prohibits negotiations between procuring entities and bidders.

It emerged that when Chokuda and Bhebhe asked for authority from Praz for price reduction on 16 September 2022, they had already negotiated a price reduction with Noah Sakudye, the director of Mid-End Computers on 7 September 2022.

An agreement was reached and price was reduced from US$243 000 to US$180 000 for supply and delivery of 79 desktops. The meeting was chaired by the chief director of finance, Bernard Zvamada.

Again, the Standard Bidding Document issued to bidders had no signed declaration by accused one (Chokuda), who is the accounting officer, to the effect that the procuring entity is based on neutral and fair technical requirements violating Section 20 (2) [C] of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets (PPDPA) (General) Regulations.

It is further alleged that Chokuda on page 16-17 of the Standard Bidding Document specified the required HP laptops on Lot 1 in violation of Section 27 (2) of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets General Regulations.

Both Chokuda and Bhebhe were granted ZW$100 000 bail and will appear again in court on 31 May.

When the matter of the laptops broke out last year, Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ) issued a scathing statement expressing concern over the rising corruption levels in the country as noted by the Global Corruption Perception Index (CPI) for 2021, as well as its own study into Bribery in the Public Sector, the National Bribe Payers Index (NBPI) for 2021.

TIZ recommended that the cancellation of the contract should not settle the matter without further scrutiny of public procurement frameworks to plug any loopholes and prevent any recurrence of the malpractices.

“The Office of the Auditor-General should complement these efforts by launching a forensic audit of the Parliament of Zimbabwe in the procurement of goods and services in 2021 & 2022, given the apparent deficiencies in the procurement process.”

“This forensic audit will undoubtedly establish the extent of corruption in the institution and flag out corruption risks in public procurement. The findings from the audit should be made public for accountability purposes. Evidence presented so far is suggestive of collusion between public servants, parties in the private sector and individual citizens,” read the statement.

TIZ also urged Parliament to consider the laptops scandal as a form of financial misconduct in line with section 85 (1) (b) of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). Proper disciplinary procedures should therefore be followed consistent with sections 87 and 88 of the PFMA.

The anti-corruption organisation said it envisaged a society in which citizens have the confidence and knowledge to hold public and private officials to account, and in which leaders have integrity and high ethical standards that are expected of the offices they hold.

“Given the foregoing, it is equally imperative that the Parliament causes public disclosure of the   beneficial owners of Blinart Investments P/L and Mid-End Computers Hardware P/L and ensures that they are personally blacklisted from any future Government procurement process, along with all entities that they have current and future association with.  

“Publishing these details will not only give the public an opportunity to know the specific individuals who are receiving personal gain from such despicable acts of corruption but also enable local businesses to remove them and their associated entities from their suppliers’ lists. The publication will also certainly act as a deterrent mechanism,” said TIZ in its statement.

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