PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa and his political fixers are trying to nail Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga over his ally, Deputy health minister John Mangwiro’s scandal of coercing state-owned medical supplies entity NatPharm to award a US$5.6 million Covid-19 tender to a Chinese company in which he had a personal interest, The NewsHawks have found out.
This is part of the ongoing power struggle between Mnangagwa and Chiwenga who are fighting over who should rule the country from 2023.
Mnangagwa and Chiwenga were close allies in 2017 when they toppled the late former president Robert Mugabe, but no sooner had their mentor gone than they started fighting in a new power struggle.
Informed sources this week told The NewsHawks that Mnangagwa and his allies, through the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) and the Special Anti-Corruption Unit (Sacu), are pushing to implicate and nail Chiwenga into the corrupt deal.
Mangwiro intervened after NatPharm had blocked the Chinese company in which he had an undeclared interest – Young Health Care Limited – from getting a tender to supply vital Covid-19 materials.
This even after Young Health Care had reduced its inflated quote by a staggering US$2.6 million.
After an investigation, Zacc recommended that Mangwiro, Chiwenga’s deputy and his personal physician, be investigated and prosecuted for criminal abuse of office.
“The actions of the deputy minister signal a personal interest in the tender, and this should have prompted him to declare his interest,” a stinging internal Zacc memo leaked to online media, first to ZimLive, said after a review of tender NAT TCB FWWK 04/2020 for the supply of laboratory equipment, reagents and consumables for Covid-19 to NatPharm.
This shady deal came soon after the US$60 million Covid-19 supplies scandal involving Drax International, local businessman Delish Nguwaya and Mnangagwa’s family.
Sources said this week Zacc is pressuring the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Praz) officials to say that Mangwiro was acting under instruction from Chiwenga while he was in China over the corrupt deal.
“What is happening here is this; Zacc and Sacu think that Chiwenga is the one behind Mangwiro in the deal. Their story is that when Chiwenga was in China he brokered the deal and then assigned Mangwiro to execute,” a source told The NewsHawks.
“They say Chiwenga wanted to bring the supplies through Mangwiro from China where he had gone for medical review, but since it was urgent they decided to send a plane to deliver instead of waiting for him to bring the materials, which they initially thought of.
“For that to happen, Mangwiro had to prevail over NatPharm to give Young Health Care a supply contract. That’s where the Praz people come into the equation over adjudication. In a bid to get his way, Mangwiro became desperate and even called them during awkward times like around 10pm to secure the tender. They say this was because he was under pressure from his own boss, Chiwenga. Now Zacc wants Praz officials to say that Chiwenga was involved; that he is the principal in the deal and Mangwiro is just a runner.”
Another source added: “This might all be true, but then the problem is that the whole issue is now political; it’s now a power struggle issue.”
Zacc’s investigation over the tender, carried out between August 31 and September 4, says one of the Health ministry’s directors Dr Gibson Mhlanga, then acting health secretary, wrote to NatPharm on July 15, 2020, instructing the company to “make direct procurements of supplies from Young Health Care.”
Zacc said this was in violation of PRAZ Circular 1 of 2020 which decrees that “only Praz-listed suppliers are sources of Covid-19 supplies.”
“Initial quotation by Young Health Care for supply of commodities under direct procurement, where prices quoted by Young Health Care Limited were exorbitant amounted to US$5.6 million, which was coincidentally the same amount that was in the ministry coffers, suggesting that the company had inside information,” the Zacc report said.
Zacc said after NatPharm insisted on a competitive bidding process, Mangwiro – a medical doctor appointed to deputy minister in September 2018 – demanded that the tender be delayed to allow Young Health Care to register with Praz.
“When NatPharm insisted on competitive bidding, Young Health Care Limited subsequently submitted a bid price of US$3.6 million for the same items. This saw a reduction of 36 percent in the price,” the report said.
Zacc said when the emergency 48-hour tender was finally floated on 5 August and closed on 7 August, 22 bidders including Young Health Care Limited made bids.
Young Health Care, according to the Zacc probe, missed out on the tender. Zacc, citing the then acting NatPharm managing director Zealous Nyabadza, said this angered Mangwiro who summoned the company’s top managers late at night “to explain why the tender was not awarded to Young Health Care Limited.”
“The deputy minister also demanded that a purchase order be issued that same night. The adjudication team was picked from their homes around 10PM and were interrogated by Mangwiro until the early hours of the following day. The deputy minister threatened the team with dismissal for failing to award Young Health Care the contracts,” the report said.
Zacc also found that Young Health Care had also been given a purchase order by NatPharm for nucleic acid, purification machines, transport media and reagents.
After delivering on two of the four purification machines and about 6% of the other two orders, the company reportedly requested an advance “contrary to the terms and conditions of the contract signed with NatPharm, which stipulates that payment should be made seven days after delivery.”
The equipment received by NatPharm was worth US$124 630.40.
Mangwiro “insisted on pre-payment and tasked the technical team from NatPharm procurement to visit Young Health Care Limited in their country office and verify available stock in order to compel the NatPharm acting MD to make a prepayment to Young Health Care Limited”, the report said.
The verification team found that items amounting to US$127 643.20 were in stock instead of the US$922 000 requested for pre-payment.
In the end, Zacc said Mangwiro’s alleged actions “violated the evaluation process since the technical team did not have the mandate to carry out the verification of supplies.”
Nyabadza wrote to the health ministry permanent secretary Jasper Chimedza on 26 August “informing him of the pre-payment issue and seeking guidance on how to proceed”, but received no reply “prompting him to decline taking Mangwiro’s instruction to pre-pay Young Health Care.”
“Given the extent to which the deputy minister was involved in the said tender process, indications are that he was acting on his own capacity and not on behalf of the ministry… The conduct of the deputy minister during this tender process warrants further investigations for criminal abuse of office for possible violation of Section 174 of the Criminal Law Codification Act [Chapter9:23],” the report said.
“Apart from this provision, further investigations should be conducted to ascertain possible violation of Section 14 of the Public Finance Management Act [Chapter22:19] by the deputy minister through giving ministerial directives having financial implications when he demanded prepayment of undelivered goods to Young Health Care. There is need for further investigations into the possible violation of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act [Chapter 22:23] as the conduct of the Deputy Minister might have compromised the independence of NatPharm as a procurement entity.”
Sources said this issue shows that the anti-corruption campaign has now become the new political battleground between Mnangagwa and Chiwenga.