UNWTO tender row rages on


HARARE – As Tourism minister Walter Mzembi has awarded a lucrative United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) conference organiser’s contract to Africa Bureau of Conventions (ABC), a scathing Zimbabwe International Trade Fair Company (ZITF) letter has further exposed how badly the tender was handled.

The development comes as Rooney’s — one of the preferred event managers has reportedly been shafted, while a local company Africa Exchange (AE) has surprisingly emerged to partner the winning professional conference organiser (PCO).

“We would like to… register our gross dissatisfaction as a company for the way in which the tender for the services of the PCO for the 20th session of the UNWTO general assembly was handled,” Daniel Chigaru, the ex-ZITF general manager said in the June 14, 2013 letter addressed to Mzembi’s permanent secretary Margaret Sangarwe.

“After successfully being awarded the tender on March 8, 2013, the ministry of Tourism has not been forthcoming with the contract of engagement and terms of reference three months later. After several fruitless attempts to get communication and clarity… the State Procurement Board eventually advised us on May 24, 2013 that according to the accounting officer’s minute (TH/C/64)… the tender was allegedly cancelled,” the Bulawayo-based firm said, adding it had it “came as a surprise…  that the contract has, in fact, been awarded to another organisation.”

Crucially, Chigaru’s letter gave the sense some costs and expenses had already been incurred, and already billed to the government.

On Monday, Rooney’s managing director Niall Rooney confirmed that one of their directors Shameck Mupeti was even sent to South Korea as part of the UNWTO bidding team.

“We are going to be offering numerous services (for the UNWTO assembly), but we are yet to conclude the deals,” he said, adding though, that they were still hopeful they could cut a deal in the limited remaining time.

This also comes amid grumblings about the handling of the 2010 World Cup public-viewing screens project and the appointment of a contractor for the construction of a temporary structure for the August 24-29 UNWTO event, Zimbabwe is co-hosting with Zambia in Victoria Falls.

While the ZITF had been awarded the PCO tender — after it had been floated for the second time — the Tourism ministry withdrew the offer and at a time several other bidders have been crying foul over the PCO job.

As recently reported by the Daily News, Mzembi’s ministry stands accused of “favouring ABC as the contract was awarded long before the latest announcement”, local event managers say.

In a June 27, letter to one of the unsuccessful local bidders, the Tourism ministry said it had awarded the PCO tender number SFT/MOTHI T-001/2012 ABC, which “provided the lowest bidder to specifications in the sum of $299 000.”

Sangarwe’s letter not only came after the State Procurement Board had re-ordered “an open tender” late last year, but as industry insiders said ABC had “already been on the ground in Victoria Falls working on the event programme” and the company had already spent ?R60 000 on related expenses.

On Tuesday, Mzembi — innocently voted top performer of the year 2012 by the Daily News — accussed the paper of waging a war against him..

“You are trying to bring me down. You are working with people who want to be ministers,” he said, adding the Daily News has been writing falsehoods yet he had nothing to hide.

About three weeks ago, the minister said the UNWTO conferencing solution and issue was “a Cabinet-cleared matter so l advise you not to waste your energy on useless leads” and “there are no local skills to answer” such global event specifications.

As local event organisers expressed shock at the minister’s disdain — when he has won numerous international awards at the back of their efforts — they were equally amazed by his choice of a foreign manager when there were even cheaper options out of the eight who had tendered for this key event.

And as the PCO tender row and debate rages on, ABC’s role and selection has come under the spotlight after the second tender — as ordered by Charles Kuwaza’s SPB — had called on all bidders to attend a compulsory January 4 pre-selection meeting.

“…non-attendance will lead to automatic disqualification. A certificate of attendance to this meeting will be issued on this day and has to be attached to final documents submitted to State Procurement Board,” the tender document said.

But even, though, ABC had failed to attend, a Tourism ministry official named as Mavhumbe claimed the meeting had been “postponed to January 9 because Margaret Sangarwe could not attend”.

And even after agreeing to abide by the tender requirements with the regulator, the South African-based PCO’s representatives showed up at the subsequent meeting — thus prompting howls of disapproval by the local organisers.

Meanwhile, a company search for AE shows that its a subsidiary of a South Africa-based firm and it was registered in February 2012. Its directors were also given as Arlene Unity Peters and Richard Glenn Dylan Wilson-Max.

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