Exposé on ZEC poll deal . . .$21m spent on material . . .SA firm threatens to sue

23 Jun, 2024 - 00:06 0 Views
Exposé on ZEC poll deal . . .$21m spent on material . . .SA firm threatens to sue

The Sunday Mail

Debra Matabvu and Lincoln Towindo

THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) followed the procedure prescribed by the law and engaged all relevant stakeholders through the Special Procurement Oversight Committee (SPOC), which includes the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (PRAZ), in sourcing electoral materials for last year’s harmonised elections from South African supplier Ren-Form CC, it has been learnt.

The Sunday Mail has gathered that the commission actually wrote to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade on February 16, 2023 seeking assistance in identifying potential suppliers through embassies.

The ministry duly responded five days later, indicating that the Zimbabwean embassy in South Africa had identified seven potential suppliers — Asset

Protection Africa (Johannesburg); Uni Print (Durban); UV Equip (Midrand); Lithotech (Johannesburg); Forms Media Independent (Johannesburg); Novus Print (Cape Town); and Ren-Form CC, which is based in Johannesburg.

After the vetting process, three companies were shortlisted.

A team headed by ZEC deputy chairperson Ambassador Rodney Kiwa, which also included Government printing experts from Printflow and Fidelity Printers, as well as a forensic scientist from the Zimbabwe Republic Police, subsequently travelled to South Africa between April 16 and 21 for a due diligence exercise.

They also roped in embassy officials.

Ren-Form CC emerged the ideal supplier as it reportedly had the ability to provide all the required materials, unlike the two other shortlisted companies.

As per procedure, the contract for procurement of the ballot papers and ink was submitted to PRAZ (SPOC) on May 8.

Four days later, on May 12, SPOC approved the procurement.

The South African company was also awarded a contract to supply tents and solar lights, as its prices were deemed lower, according to a comparative schedule by PRAZ, compared to those from Lobatse Canvas, which had supplied previous tents to ZEC.

In the May 12 approval letter to ZEC, PRAZ chief executive officer Mr Clever Ruswa approved the procurement of ballot papers and voting indelible marking pens from Ren-Form CC under Tender Number ZEC/DP18/2023.

“At a Special Procurement Oversight Committee meeting number 17 of 2023 held virtually on May 11, it was observed that . . . the accounting officer adopted the direct procurement method in line with Section 33 (2) (c) of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act, which provides for direct procurement where, for reasons of extreme urgency not attributable to and unforeseen by the procuring entity, the procurement requirement cannot be obtained in time by means of competitive bidding procedures, and directly approached Ren-Form CC of South Africa,” wrote Mr Ruswa.

“The accounting officer reported that they adopted the direct procurement method . . . because proclamation of the election date is done by His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe.

“The accounting officer engaged Re-Form of South Africa for negotiations on costs in line with Section 16 (1) (d) of the PPDPA (General) Regulations and was given a discount of US$1 479 243.”

After the elaborate process, the elections management body then submitted papers to PRAZ on June 22 for approval, which was granted on June 27.

PRAZ resultantly greenlighted the procurement of about 330 tonnes of special paper for the printing of ballots and the indelible ink pens.

ZEC also bought 1 000 tents made using canvas material known as Ristop, which is renowned for being extremely tough, as well as 15 000 solar lights.

Only $21 million spent

Overall, ZEC spent approximately US$21 million on items such as canvas tents, ballot papers, solar lights and indelible ink marking pens for the 2023 harmonised elections.

The total amount spent on canvas tents and solar lights was US$3 544 526, while ballot paper and indelible ink was priced at US$4 513 090.

A further US$2 432 984 was spent on V11 securing boxes and US$8 964 603 was used to purchase information and communication technology gadgets to beef up ZEC’s digital systems.

In an interview with The Sunday Mail, ZEC deputy chief elections officer Mr Simbarashe Tongai said the procurement process strictly adhered to the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act and received full approval from PRAZ.

“The total amount that was spent on importing material for the elections including some donations was US$21 148 867. This includes materials like solar lights, tents, ballot papers and display kits for V11 forms,” said Mr Tongai.

“For the first time since 2000, all electoral materials were delivered two-and-a-half months before the elections, which eased the downward logistics.

“Previously, paper was delivered two weeks or three weeks before the elections.

“100 percent of these materials were delivered on time. We have PRAZ clearances for the procurement of the materials.”

The latest revelations come amid rumours from social media that ZEC allegedly enlisted local businessmen to corruptly award the tender to the South African company at inflated prices in return for kickbacks.

Last week, Ren-Form CC indicated that it had engaged “a senior legal team” to “defend our name and reputation”.

In a letter dated June 19 to ZEC chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba, Ren-Form CC business development executive Mr Angus Carlaw said: “At Ren-Form, we are outraged by these allegations, and we would like to set the record straight in terms of claims made by the two gentlemen concerned, which have completely no basis.

“We confirm that we do not know these gentlemen and have no relationship whatsoever nor any agreement of any sort with these gentlemen relating to ZEC or any other matter.”

The company said it does “not rule out taking appropriate action in Zimbabwe”.

Share This: