New twist to US$60m Covid-19 deal  

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Blessing Masakadza
STAFF WRITER
masakadzab@dailynews.co.zw
©️  A company that is at the centre of a US$60 million coronavirus supplies procurement storm, was cleared by permanent secretary in the Finance ministry, George Guvamatanga,  lawyers defending its representative in the country said yesterday.

This comes as 36-year-old Nguwaya — who represents Drax Consult SAGL and Drax LL, also known as Drax International — is facing two counts of fraud
His lawyers — Tafadzwa Hungwe, Admire Rubaya and Ashiel Mugiya — told Harare magistrate Vongai Muchuchuti Guuriro during yesterday’s bail hearing that Nguwaya was being falsely accused by the State; and that there was no shred of evidence linking him to the alleged offences.
Nguwaya, the lawyers argued, signed contracts between Drax Consult SAGL and NatPharm as a witness, and was not a shareholder of the company.
The lawyers tendered before the court a letter which was written to then Health ministry permanent secretary Agnes Mahomva by Guvamatanga dated September 30, 2019, giving them the green light to enter into an agreement with Drax.
“I write following up on my letter of even reference dated 25 September 2019 regarding an expression of interest in the supply of medicines up to the value of US$20 million by Drax Consult SAGL.
“Please be advised that Treasury has received additional information indicating that Drax Consult SAGL has no adverse record regarding its operations. In this regard your ministry can proceed to engage the company on its offer to supply medicines,” Guvamatanga said in his letter apparently clearing Drax.
The State is, however, opposing bail on fears that Nguwaya could flee the country. Nguwaya’s lawyers dismissed this.
The State further argued it was yet to recover US$2 million which the Zimbabwe government paid into a Hungarian bank account owned by Drax. The money is at the centre of an Interpol money laundering inquiry.
Nguwaya’s lawyers argued that Nguwaya was a clean man with no pending cases and had no reason to flee the country.
Guuriro is set to make a ruling on the bail application today.
The State alleges that Nguwaya misrepresented to the government that the two companies were capable of supplying drugs to the country, although they were just mere 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 to supply 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 ministry of Health and Child Care 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 Obadiah Moyo.
It was 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 was 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.
State says Nguwaya prejudiced the nation, as government officials acted on his misrepresentation to process 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 a noted variance on the prices charged by Drax International LLC, vis-à-vis those prevailing on the market.
The issue of Drax has caused a storm in the country, and it has since forced the government to pull the plug on both the US$20 million and US$40 million deals.
Last week, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) and the police also questioned senior officials at PRAZ, Natpharm and the Finance ministry — as part of their probe into the controversial deals.
And last Thursday, Moyo was reported to Zacc, which has also since opened a case on him — over Covid-19 related deals.

 

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