Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (Zinara) executives and board members who allegedly flouted tender procedures escaped censure because the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) slept on duty, a fresh investigation has revealed.
BY VENERANDA LANGA AND OBEY MANAYITI
Beginning this week, we will publish findings of a joint investigation by the Standard and Information for Development Trust (IDT), a local non-profit organisation, into several scandals that have rocked the authority in recent years and provide new information in cases that could have been swept under the carpet.
The revelations will be published in a two-part series.
In 2012, Zinara bought 40 graders worth $8 040 800 after going through proper procedures as specified by the State Procurement Board (SPB), which awarded the contract to Univern Enterprises (Pvt) Ltd, a Zimbabwean-registered company.
However, the roads utility wilfully flouted tender procedures when it bought an extra 40 graders at the same price the following year by just using the initial reference number, Zinara/01/12, when it was supposed to invite bidders anew.
Both the SPB and Zinara admitted that the roads authority flouted tender procedures.
Investigations carried out by The Standard and IDT revealed that Zinara and Univern were involved in an incestuous business relationship whereby the roads authority call centre was housed at the private company’s premises in Workington, together with a fleet of cars owned by the parastatal.
While section 87 of the Public Finance Management Act provides that an accounting officer, authority or an employee of a ministry or public entity may be arrested for financial misconduct, no concrete investigations of the Zinara executives and senior employees took place.
Frank Chitukutuku, the former Zinara CEO who presided over the tender, left his post in late 2014 before the expiry of his contract and went on to set up a flourishing agro-firm, Farm Pride, in June 2015 where he is co-director with his wife, Nyasha, escaping public scrutiny.
The former Zinara financial director, Thomas Mutizhe, was suspended for alleged professional misconduct on November 27 2014 pending a hearing but was given a golden handshake that included a Land Rover Discovery and perks totalling some $400 000, while his outstanding house mortgage was written off.
Several institutions and departments which were supposed to take corrective action against the flouting of the grader tender did not do so.
These include Zacc, police and the transport ministry, in addition to the Zinara board and its management.
Buzwani Mothobi, the SPB executive chairman, told our reporters that his board did its own probe of the tender violations by Zinara and referred the matter, through resolution number PBR 0708B of July 2014, to Zacc and the police for further investigations.
“In that case, it is now up to the enforcement agencies to establish whether the administrative violation of the regulations amounted to corruption,” Mothobi said.
The procurement board condoned the irregular tender but pointed out that condonation was not punishment but a mere administrative procedure that has just sanitised the illegal procurement.
Current and former Zacc commissioners, though, claimed they were not aware of the recommendation by the SPB , which has also been dogged by allegations of corruption, to investigate the matter, while the police never took action.
On the other hand, the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee chairperson Paurina Mpariwa said they were still looking into the Zinara issue.
She said they had “not yet summoned Zinara specifically to grill them on the issue of the 40 graders acquired unlawfully” as her team “has a huge backlog of audited accounts of ministries and SEPs [State Enterprises and Parastatals] dating as far back as 2013.”
Transport minister Jorum Gumbo also admitted that Zinara flouted tender procedures but has also not stepped out to probe the alleged offenders, seemingly content with the SPB condonation.
Eddie Cross, a lawmaker, however insisted the ministry must have punished Zinara for disregarding its advice and flouting tender regulations.-The Standard