Govt justifies US$60m Covid-19 supply deals
SENIOR STAFF WRITER
THE government has defended its intended procurement of coronavirus supplies worth US$60 million from Drax Consult SAGL and Drax LL, also known as Drax International, without going to tender.
This comes as the local representative of the company — Delish Nguwaya — was denied bail and remanded in custody to June 30 after his arrest last week. He is facing two counts of fraud in connection with the deal that was later cancelled at the instigation of President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Health minister Obadiah Moyo has also since been arrested in connection with the matter and is out of custody on $50 000 bail.
Responding to questions from parliamentarians last week, the leader of government business in the august House and also Justice minister, Ziyambi Ziyambi, said normal tender procedures were forgone because Covid-19 procurements were an emergency.
“Under normal circumstances, it was supposed to go through the tender process, but because this is an emergency situation, there was no need for a tender. It is an abnormal situation,” Ziyambi said.
He was, however, pressed by MDC-Alliance MP for Kambuzuma Willias Madzimure to explain why the government was in a rush when the country’s confirmed Covid-19 figures were relatively low.
“You are not an epidemiologist to know the seriousness of the situation. We have a task force made up of experts who give us instructions as well as the World Health Organisation,” Ziyambi said.
Allegations against Nguwaya are that he misrepresented to the government that the two companies were capable of supplying drugs to the country, although they were just consulting firms.
The court was told that sometime in 2019, Nguwaya allegedly connived with one Illir Dedja — who is still at large — and tendered an expression of interest in the supply of medicines through a US$20 million facility under a company called Papi Pharma, which was turned down after a vetting process by the relevant government departments.
Later, the Health ministry received another expression of interest from Nguwaya for a similar US$20 million supply facility, but now under a company called Drax Consult SAGL.
The letter was addressed to Health minister Moyo.
It is also alleged that in the expression of interest documents, the accused persons misrepresented that Drax Consult SAGL was a pharmaceutical company based in Switzerland, whereas it was a consulting company with no experience in the manufacture and supply of medicinal products.
Acting on the misrepresentation, the State alleges, Moyo initiated a process through his then permanent secretary Agnes Mahomva, which involved the Finance ministry, the Procurement Authority of Zimbabwe (Praz) and NatPharm.
The process culminated in a contract of supply of medicinal products between NatPharm and Drax Consult SAGL.
It is also alleged that in November 2019, Nguwaya presented himself before NatPharm managing director Nancy Sifeku and introduced Dedja as the owner of Drax Consult SAGL.
On December 19, 2019, a written contract was eventually agreed between Drax Consult SAGL and NatPharm, which Nguwaya signed as the company’s local representative, with Dedja identified as the owner of the company.
The State says Nguwaya prejudiced the nation, as government officials acted on his misrepresentation to process the contract papers.
Further allegations are that after being successful in the first encounter, Nguwaya tendered another expression of interest to supply medicines worth US$40 million — using a slightly different name, Drax International LLC.
Based on trust from the previous engagement, the government allegedly entered into a contract with Drax International LLC, the court was further told.
The misrepresentations are said to have come to light after it was noted that the prices charged by Drax International LLC were far higher than those prevailing on the market.
The government has since pulled the plug on both the US$20 million and US$40 million deals.