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Rotten tenders must fall away



ANALYSTS say Zimbabwe should plug loopholes on tender processes that benefit the politically connected, facilitating the theft of taxpayers’ money.


The government has over the years been criticised for unfairly awarding tenders, leaving citizens with the tough burden of paying through the nose, especially in the event of handpicked companies failing to deliver.

The situation has also been worsened by rampant corruption, as shown by the country’s latest ranking on the Corruption Perception Index (CPI), released by Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ) in February this year.

The country maintained a 23/100 score, placing it 157th out of 180 countries, only four points above the bottom 10.

Some of the dubious tender processes have sparked public outcry over the government’s commitment to transparency. 

For instance, last week, controversial businessperson Wicknell Chivayo was absolved of wrongdoing following accusations of misappropriating US$5.6 million for the 100 megawatt (MW) Gwanda solar project, after the Harare magistrates’ court agreed that there had been an unreasonable delay in the prosecution.

In 2015, Intratrek, a company owned by Chivayo, won a US$193 million tender to build a 100MW solar project, aimed at easing pressure on the dilapidated Hwange and Kariba power stations, a project that has failed to take off, eight years later.

The Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) in 2015 filed charges of fraud against Chivayo, accusing him of pocketing US$5 111 224 paid to him for pre-commencement works on the 100MW plant meant for the Gwanda Solar Project.

Signs of hope for the project’s take-off started showing again in July 2020, when then Energy minister Fortune Chasi said the government was going to re-establish plans to run the Gwanda Solar Project, after Intratrek had vowed to deliver the first 10MW within six months. The project has been in limbo since then.

Last week’s ruling was a win for Chivayo whom ZPC had on several occasion tried to press criminal charges against – without luck.

Energy lawyer Darlington Chidarara said the country should fix porous tender processes which have effected loss of taxpayers’ money.

“This particular project was supposed to give us 100MW into the grid, which is quite a lot as we are in a power crisis. So, imagine if this was to complete. We are talking about close to eight years now, and what is there are probably those cabins that were put and inspected in 2018.

“So, since then, it has been court battles and others. So, basically, I think the biggest challenge that we have is, firstly, looking at our tender processes as the government. We need a tender process that can be trusted.

“Because we are using taxpayers’ money at the end of the day. We are looking at those principles of openness and contract transparency within the government. If everything is not done in a black box, then we can be able to hold the duty bearers to account so that we do not repeat mistakes of the duty bearers, of giving those who may not have the capacity, like what we have seen under this case,” said Darlington Chidarara, an energy law expert.

While tenders have been tilted towards politically-connected people, Chidarara said that it was important for tenders to be won on the basis of competitiveness. 

“If we want to progress, then that is the major issue, the tendering process. It has to be competitive bidding, and not a few people who are politically connected getting tender when they do not have a track record or when they do not have the capacity to run these projects,” Chidarara told The NewsHawks.  

There have been several other illicit tender processes which have raised public outcry.

In September last year, Parliament found itself in the eye of a storm when leaked official communication revealed that it had awarded Blinart Investments (Private) Limited a tender to supply 173 laptops for a total of US$1 602 755.77, translating to US$9 200 per gadget.

Mid-End Computers and Hardware Ltd was awarded a tender to supply 79 desktops valued at US$3 000 each.

Treasury quickly cancelled the inflated tender and blacklisted the companies involved. In a statement dated 23 September, clerk of Parliament Kennedy Chokuda (pictured) released a statement blaming Parliament staffers for the “corrupt deal”.

In February this year, the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) called for an immediate audit into government ministries, departments and agencies as revelations show millions of dollars could have been lost to corruption scandals during the Covid-19 pandemic.

This came after government ministries had failed to account for their procurement processes during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Findings by PAC showed that the ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare is yet to account for a ZW$89 022 103 windfall meant to cushion vulnerable people affected by effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The report availed to The NewsHawks showed that some of the allowances processed through the NetOne platform in July 2020 for 873 beneficiaries at ZW$300 each had not been collected from Buhera and Umzingwane District Social Welfare offices, which is said to have been caused by poor record keeping by the department.

In another instance, the same address was used by over 1 107 beneficiaries, making it difficult to track them.

According to the committee, the ministry has been showing lack of seriousness in dealing with the issues.

Senior government officials have also been mired in high-level tender scandals.

In 2021, Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister Paul Mavima and National Social Security Authority (Nssa) top executives are entangled in a murky ZW$400 million (US$4.8 million) National Building Society (NBS) tender for the construction of 500 housing units in Harare’s Dzivaresekwa suburb, casting a long shadow of corruption over the housing scheme.

More acolytes, embroiled in President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s web have also been sanctioned on accusations of milking state funds through dubious state contracts and tenders. 

In December last year, the United States slapped sanctions on Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s son Emmerson Jr, and business tycoon Kudakwashe Tagwirei’s wife Sandra Mpunga, Nqobile Magwizi, Obey Chimuka and Fossil Contracting.

The individuals were placed on the reviewed list for their links to Tagwirei, who was sanctioned in 2020 on accusations of using his wealth to cultivate relationships with high-level government officials while receiving state contracts and access to hard currency in exchange for luxury items.

Tagwirei’s Landela Investments reportedly purchased buses for Zupco at US$58 900 and sold them for inflated prices of US$212 962 each, prejudicing the country of funds.

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