Minister grilled over corruption … Zacc probe relates to a US$5,6m corona tender 

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Blessings Mashaya 

and Blessing Masakadza 

SENIOR STAFF WRITERS

THE Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) interrogated deputy Health and Child Care minister John Mangwiro on Tuesday, pending the finalisation of his corruption allegations docket relating to a coronavirus tender, the Daily News can reveal. 

Zacc spokesperson John Makamure confirmed to the Daily News yesterday that Mangwiro had indeed been called in for questioning by the anti-graft body — but was let go to allow the completion of his docket.

Mangwiro is alleged to have arm-twisted executives of the National Pharmaceutical Company (Natpharm) to award a US$5,6 million Covid-19 tender to a firm called Young Health Care — which authorities claim was not registered to participate in government tenders at the time.

“I can confirm that he was called in for (the recording of) a warned and cautioned statement yesterday (Tuesday). The commission is waiting for some other vital information before finalising the docket,” Makamure said, without giving further details.

All this comes as President Emmerson Mnangagwa has fired Cabinet ministers and several other high-ranking government officials after they were mired in corruption allegations. Apart from cutting loose those accused of partaking in graft, Mnangagwa has also vowed to clamp down on both Zanu PF bigwigs and ordinary citizens suspected to have acquired unexplained wealth.

As was first correctly reported by the Daily News and later confirmed by Zacc, Mangwiro is under investigation for allegedly forcing Natpharm to award the multi-million dollar tender to Young Health Care — a company that was said to be unregistered with the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Praz) at the time.

According to a report by Zacc’s compliance and systems department, it is claimed that Mangwiro arm-twisted Natpharm executives to award a tender for laboratory equipment, reagents and consumables for Covid-19 to Young Health Care.

It is further alleged that Mangwiro held a meeting with Natpharm’s tender adjudication team one evening, before allegedly ordering them to issue a supply order the same night for Covid-19 consumables to the firm.

The company was said not to have been registered with Praz at the time — which allegedly saw Mangwiro causing the postponement of the tender to allow the firm to get registered.

However, the tender has since been cancelled after the intervention of the graft-busting commission.

The Zacc report said Mangwiro allegedly convened a meeting with the Natpharm adjudication team where he threatened them with dismissal, after he had queried why the team was refusing to award the tender to Young Health Care.

The report alleged that Natpharm’s acting managing director reported that he had received a phone call from Mangwiro instructing him to convene a meeting with his adjudication team during odd hours, to explain why the tender was not awarded to the company.

“The deputy minister (Mangwiro) also demanded that a purchase order be issued that same night. The adjudication team were picked up from their homes around 2200 hours and were interrogated by the deputy minister until the early hours. The deputy minister threatened the team with dismissal for failing to award Young Health Care the contracts,” the Zacc report said.

“Procurement process of the tender 04/2020 was marred by directives from … Mangwiro, resulting in delaying the procurement.A letter from the then acting secretary of Health (Gibson) Mhlanga dated 15 July 2020, instructing Natpharm to make direct procurement of supplies from Young Health Care … was issued when the company was not registered with the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe.

“This is a violation of provisions of Praz Circular 1 of 2020 which stipulate that only … listed suppliers are sources of Covid-19 supplies,” Zacc said further in the report.

The report added that when Natpharm insisted on competitive bidding, the tender process was allegedly postponed to allow Young Health Care to register with Praz.

“This delayed the procurement of Covid-19 materials. The deputy minister has usurped the authority of the permanent secretary as the accounting officer,” the report added.

According to Zacc, Mangwiro did not have the powers and mandate to undertake administrative duties — which were the responsibility of the permanent secretary.

The report further alleged that Young Health Care inflated prices and was also paid in advance before it supplied the purchased goods, after Mangwiro also allegedly directed Natpharm to do so.

This apparently occurred a few months after former Health minister Obadiah Moyo was sacked by Mnangagwa following his arrest for allegedly awarding a US$60 million tender to Drax International for the supply of coronavirus drugs and personal protective equipment.

Mnangagwa has declared zero tolerance to graft and has so far sacked Moyo and former Labour and Social Welfare minister Prisca Mupfumira, after they were mired in corruption allegations.

In addition, several other high profile individuals have been arraigned before the courts as Zacc clamps down on corruption.

Former Energy minister in the late former president Robert Mugabe’s Cabinet, Samuel Undenge, is currently serving a jail term after he was recently convicted of corruption. Also sent to jail was former Director of State Residences Douglas Tapfuma, who was convicted after corruptly importing vehicles for his own gain. He was sentenced to an effective four years in prison.

Only last month, Mnangagwa jettisoned one of his bodyguards who was implicated in an alleged gold smuggling racket.

Stephen Chenjerai Tserayi, a member of the Close Unit, was suspended following the recent arrest of controversial Zimbabwe Miners Federation president Henrietta Rushwaya — who was busted at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport allegedly attempting to smuggle 6kg of gold to Dubai.

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