Opposition MPs, Cllrs in $60m scandal

27 Jan, 2019 - 00:01 0 Views
Opposition MPs, Cllrs in $60m scandal Commissioner Goodson Nguni

The Sunday Mail

Brian Chitemba
Investigations Editor

THE Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) has opened an investigation against 23 MDC councillors and two National Assembly members implicated in a $60 million tender scandal.

Other charges are related to the sell of stands to MDC councillors in a self-enriching scam.

The councillors accused in the stands scam include Sithabile Mataka, Thabitha Ngwenya, Gladys Masuku, Macdonald Chunga, Tamani Moyo, Nephat Sibanda, Clayton Zana, Thobani Ncube, Collet Ndlovu, Siboniso Khumalo, Reuben Matengu, Mazama Dube, Gideon Mangena and former councilor Edward Manning.

Zacc Commissioner in charge of investigations Mr Goodson Nguni confirmed the probe.

He said the anti-graft body was keen to interview the opposition members – some of whom who are no longer with the Bulawayo City Council – including Njube MP and MDC-Alliance Bulawayo provincial chair Mr Gift Banda.

“We are looking for Bulawayo councillors and former city fathers on allegations of flouting tender regulations and buying undervalued stands,” said Mr Nguni.

“The accused have been evading our teams; they must come to our offices to answer questions.”

The probe stems from a Bulawayo City Council report compiled by an investigating team made up of Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing top officials.

A tip-off from the Bulawayo provincial administrator’s office in August 2015 precipitated the investigations which exposed the suspended Zifa vice president Mr Banda, Makokoba MP Mr James Sithole and Cllr Charles Moyo of Ward 9.

Government’s probe team interrogated council’s pricing model for land to councillors, council officials and the public.

Investigators also looked at the procurement system and whether due was done in terms of the Urban Councils Act (Chapter 29:15).

After perusing council minutes, tender documents, maps and policy documents, the Government investigation team headed by Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Ministry director engineering services, Engineer Hungwe, unearthed that council awarded a $59, 6 million tender to Terracotta without following proper procedure.

It was revealed that Terracotta won the contract in 2015 for the rehabilitation of Basch Street Terminus (Egodini) ahead of Pearl Properties which had charged $30 million and Road Port which quoted $3 million.

Mr Nguni said Zacc was investigating why a company which was the highest bidder at $60 million was given a contract ahead of the lowest bidder at $3 million.

The Government investigating team noted that Terracotta was awarded a contract without a feasibility study to show how both parties would benefit financially from the investment.

Questions were also raised why Terracotta made sweeping changes to the agreement with council.

The report reads in part; “Initially, the developer was supposed to pay compensation for demolition and removal of any occupancy in terms of this project proposal. This was, however, changed with the responsibility being heaped squarely on council.

“In the initial agreement, it was agreed that Terracotta would develop the surrounding roads, but it was changed that council will take over.

“All these changes were confirmed to the team during discussions with the acting Town Clerk (Mrs Zhou) and the deputy mayor (Mr Banda)

“….sweeping changes being made to the agreement indicates that Terracotta was not in essence committed to its initial proposal and only wanted to be awarded the contract before re-negotiating for another contract which puts it at an unfair advantage to others who participated.”

The probe team observed that the majority of the contract changes created a financial responsibility on council with no corresponding reduction on the project cost.

Investigators are seeking answers to irregular tender allegations on appointment of Consolidated Engineers and Merchants (CEM) by council.

“Commencement date was agreed from 2/11/11 to 2/4/12. Municipal procurement board on 28/9/11 noted that CEM price could have been influenced behind closed doors since they had earlier tendered in excess of $1 million,” said the Government investigation report.

Zacc is probing how Mr Banda was allocated stand 18827 Ascot Racecourse on May 6, 2015 where he constructed a precast wall without council approval. Mr Banda was said to be owing council $131 709.36 for the stand.

Mr Banda is also accused of using his influence as the then deputy mayor to lease a social club to a company called Entertainment Headquarters where he is listed as a principal partner.

Makokoba MP Mr Sithole used his office to acquire stand 15943 Parklands on April 6, 2016 and owes council $216 176.47.

Cllr Earnest Moyo of Ward 20 owes council $44 038.87 over stand number 16831 Nkulumane since 2013 while Clr Mlandu Ncube got a stand in Sunninghill.

“The (Local Government investigating) team noted with concern that there were governance issues that were adversely affecting the operations of council. There is general stance by councillors to disregard advice from management,” reads part of the investigation report.

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