Local Government minister July Moyo is entangled in a scandal in which a company linked to a businessman at the centre of the Chilonga row was allegedly awarded a US$9,3 million contract to supply water pumps to the City of Harare without going to tender.
Treasury released the funds for the contract at the height of Harare’s crippling water crisis in October 2020.
This was after Moyo presented a paper in Cabinet requesting government to intervene to contain a potential water problem, following the city’s plea for assistance.
Moyo’s paper prompted the Cabinet to resolve that the Treasury urgently releases US$9,3 million to procure critical equipment for repairing the Morton Jaffray Water Works plant, which had been shut down.
Subsequently, the multi-million-dollar contract was awarded to Petricho Irrigation, which was represented by Paul Kruger in Zimbabwe, allegedly without going to tender.
In terms of the Procurement Act, any contract exceeding US$1 million should go through a public tender process.
The Procurement regulatory authority of Zimbabwe (Praz) acting chief executive officer Clever Ruswa confirmed that the contract was awarded without their involvement.
“It is the responsibility of Harare city council to plan and undertake all the procurement proceedings. If the procurement exceeds the stipulated thresholds that is when it comes to Praz for review by the Special Procurement Oversight committee (SPOC). The Special Procurement Oversight committee only reviews processes but does not award tenders,” Ruswa said.
“Praz has a monitoring and evaluation committee that monitors and evaluates procuring entities. If it picks some transactions which are of a criminal nature these will be forwarded to law enforcement agents or the office of the auditor General for further investigation.”
Interestingly, Petrichor Irrigation was allegedly given the contract at Moyo’s recommendation.
Ironically Kruger has, along with his business partner Darren Coetzee of Dendairy, also been at the centre of a storm triggered by a government directive to evict over 12 000 villagers from Chilonga communal lands in Chiredzi to pave way for a lucrative lucerne grass project.
Kruger and Coetzee are already producing the grass, a key ingredient in dairy cattle feed, in Kwekwe.
In October last year, the duo, in the company of Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga toured Chiredzi, where they assured the restive villagers that they were not going to be evicted.
Statutory Instrument (SI) 50 promulgated by government would give Dendairy right over 10 000 hectares of land.
On Monday, government moved to cool flaring tempers by amending the SI, removing wording indicating that the evictions were meant to pave way for a lucerne grass project and replacing them with wording indicating that what would be established was an “irrigation project”.
Investigations by the Zimbabwe Independent this week revealed that procurement regulations were allegedly flouted in awarding the US$9,3 million contract to Petricho Irrigation, as legally provided tendering processes were not followed. It also emerged that Petricho has previously been engaged by the ministry of Local Government, which Moyo presides over, to proffer solutions to the country’s crippling water shortages, further raising questions of conflict of interest.
Active investigations are underway to establish circumstances under which the contract was awarded as the capital continues battling water shortages.
“We know from our privileged position that other arms of government are investigating areas around that contract,” a senior government official said.
“What is interesting here is that the minister recommended a company he has worked with at the ministry soon after he had encouraged government to offer financial assistance to avert a major water crisis. So we ended up with a situation whereby the company was cherrypicked for the contract and became a recipient of the funds released by Treasury.”
Moyo reportedly used the company’s previous similar works in Bulawayo and Gweru to raise its profile highlighting that it had “the correct engineering technicalities to be implemented”.
Moyo was quoted in the state-newspaper, Sunday News last year in may saying: “Engineer Kruger was in the city (Bulawayo) last week and he gave me a preliminary report where he said the city’s water supply could last for 13 months, all that is needed is the correct engineering technicalities to be implemented.
“What we are saying is that every city must have an independent engineering consulting firm. In Harare, they require US$29 million to address their water challenges, but when the consultant did (his) work the figure was revised down to US$9,3 million, Gweru wanted US$2,9 million, we have been able to solve the crisis using US$450 000, I am not being sceptical about Bulawayo, but I am saying let’s have a second opinion.”
Council insiders told the Independent this week that “the hasty awarding of the contract to Petricho effectively killed the spirit of competitiveness associated with public procurement. “In short, council can never be too sure if it got value for its money,” a Town house source said.
Contacted for comment yesterday, Moyo said he was having a meeting with the President.
City of Harare city council production manager Edmore Chawasemerwa, who superintended the installation of the pumps at Morton Jaffray Water Works, declined to comment. “I have referred all questions to the procurement (department). all those are procurement issues,” he said.
At the time of going to print, council procurement officials – supply chain manager Never murerwa and compliance officer abel Dzuke had not responded to questions.
Acting Town clerk mabhena moyo referred questions to Murerwa and Dzuke.
City spokesperson Michael Chideme said he had no answers to the questions yesterday.
However, sources allege that Chawasemerwa wrote to Kruger requesting for a bill of quantities (BoQ) relating to the work that was to be undertaken at Morton Jaffray, but did not get a response.
“Chawasemerwa knows so much about pumps, that is why he was insisting on a bill of quantities. But Kruger flatly refused to supply the bill of quantities and this infuriated Chawasemerwa, as he suspected that council could have been overcharged for the pumps it received,” a source alleged.
Kruger referred questions to officials he suggested were the “relevant people” without identifying them.
“I have forwarded your message to the relevant people,” Kruger said.
Petricho representative James Corey did not respond to questions.
Details about Petrichor Irrigation on its website show that the firm prides itself as a “world-class”, ‘turnkey’ irrigation service” that “designs, supplies and installs irrigation schemes.”
“We are the leading Agrico agents in Zimbabwe, offering robust products with cutting edge technology. We aim to provide value for money on our products, and to contribute to increase the farmers’ yields in our country,” the firm’s website reads.
With the capital’s water taps running dry for prolonged spells, authorities have explained that the acute shortage of foreign currency to import treatment chemicals and obsolete equipment at the pumping plants were the source of the challenges.
Harare has been struggling to provide water to its three million residents, giving rise to cholera and typhoid outbreaks, as people turn to unsafe water sources.-TheZimIndependent