BIQ system squabble: Hre city council wins case against Quill Associates

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Harare City Council spokesperson Innocent Ruwende

·    Quill attempts to switch of the BIQ service thwarted

·      Arbitrator rules in favour of Harare

HARARE City Council (HCC) was victorious on Wednesday,in an arbitration process in which they had a dispute with South Africa firm Quill Associates over  a US$75 000  payment of the billing system- BIQ system.

HCC was paying US$35 000 annually to Quill Associates before fees were hiked to US$75 000.

The system was disconnected close to two months ago and ratepayers were left stranded after council resorted to manual imputing of receipts that did not give them updates on payments made. The system denied ratepayers access to information regarding their accounts.

The arbitrator threw away the matter  for lack of merit.

An arbitrator is a private judge hired by disputing parties to resolve their impasse.

In a statement released Wednesday, HCC stated that Quill Associates had instituted an arbitration process claiming that the city fathers had refused to pay the money in question for upgrades it made on the BIQ system.

“We used to pay US$35 000 for the old system, but Quill Associates went ahead and implemented a new version of the BIQ system which the city did not want and had not ordered and upped the fees to US$75 000,” read part of the statement

The city fathers, through their lawyers Mbidzo, Muchadehama and Makoni, argued that the two parties had not agreed to the upward variation which should have been subject to negotiation.

The lawyers further argued that there were Exchange Control requirements which needed to be complied with before any upward review of fees could be undertaken.

In its defence, HCC legal team  submitted that any upward review variation could not be effective unless it was reduced to writing and signed by both parties.

The legal team  argued that any increase would have been in violation of Section 80/6 of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act (Chapter 22.23) which prescribed going to tender for any increase to contracts fees above 20 percent.

Quill Associates tried to hold HCC to ransom by switching off the service, when it was fully aware that the it depended on the BIQ system, which caused HCC serious prejudice, damages and losses, the arbitrator heard.

In his ruling, the arbitrator ruled in favour of HCC saying ‘virtually all the defence elements were applicable and Quill Associates acted unilaterally, arbitrarily and ignored aspects of good faith, negotiations, and did not take into account basic aspects and legal requirements as well as authorizations and agreements that are required in large corporations.’

“To sum up, if the fee was an annual review, and as the invoice was arbitrarily issued without explanation, without prior negotiations, without the agreement of the respondent, without Council approval, then I hold that this was not proper, binding review or fee,” ruled the arbitrator.

“I will no accede to the claim for breach and payment by the respondent, and the award claim is dismissed.”

Quill Associates did not dispute  the ruling.

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