Exclusive: Zimbabwe robbed under Covid-19 lockdown cover

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Zimbabwe robbed under Covid-19 lock-down cover. The southern African nation could have lost millions in ministry and parastatal bid rigging.

Report by Elias Mambo and Fani Mapfumo

  • Looters abused PRAZ waiver on procurement
  • PRAZ special oversight committee (SPOC) only managed to review procurements after they were done

Government could have lost millions of dollars through bid rigging procurement processes which took a new high under the cover of Covid-19 lock-down following strict regulations which streamlined the workforce in ministries and parastatals, Zim Morning Post can report.

This comes at a time Auditor General’s office was affected by the pandemic and could not hold face to face audits.

In an interview with the Zim Morning Post on Monday, Auditor General Mildred Chiri said due to the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak the Government auditors could not operate at full capacity.

“We are busy with audit reports but the publication of the reports will be delayed,” Chiri said.

Auditor General Mildred Chiri

“Like any other organization, the Auditor General’s office was also affected by Covid-19 outbreak and this meant we could not do face to face audits as we normally do,” she said.

Face to face audits are a process where an auditor is deployed to a ministry or parastatal for a certain period where he or she interrogates the ministry or parastatal’s accounting officers.

This process usually commences in February of each year to end of May for Appropriation Audits then the auditor’s report is released end of June.

Investigations revealed that officers from the Auditor General’s office stopped working in March up to the end of July due to Covid-19 lock-down regulations.

The officers returned to work for a month in August and took another break until the beginning of October.

“There were few officers who were working from our offices but they could not go to our clients,” said a source.

Investigations by the Zim Morning Post revealed that the Auditor General’s office will only produce ministry audit reports for this financial year.

“This financial year is a mess. Auditors are focusing on ministries only. There was no time to audit parastatals, so millions of dollars lost due to bid rigging will not be known,” said the source from the Auditor General’s office.

The Zim Morning Post sought clarity from the Procurement Regulation Authority of Zimbabwe (PRAZ) concerning their role in regulating procurement.

PRAZ board chairperson Vimbai Nyemba said: “ It’s the special oversight committee (SPOC) that deals with procurements and as the Board Chair I don’t get involved for purposes of good governance. My board doesn’t get involved too. As you know we are a regulator now and not a procurement board.”

After Covid-19 was declared a pandemic PRAZ issued guidelines for procurements and this meant that procurements were done urgently without the need of reviews by SPOC before the procurement.

As a result of the waiver, investigations by the Zim Morning Post revealed that procurements were done and then reviews were conducted after the procurement was done.

“This opened a channel for looting,” said one insider.

“How could SPOC carry out reviews well after purchases were done. The role of the SPOC is to review prices and produce an adverse audit report before procurements are done.”

PRAZ had also directed that each government entity was supposed to submit monthly reports of all procurement done during the waiver period.

However, insiders said only a couple of ministries and parastatals have submitted the reports.

“We only received a few reports from February to April and then nothing came through,” said the source.

Zim Morning Post looks at top 3 ministries in bid rigging storm

Ministry of Health and Child Care

The ministry became more vulnerable to corruption as it was at the centre of the pandemic and also the most active during the period.

Several cases have been reported since April involving top officials and working staff linking them to acts of corruption.

The then Health minister Obadiah Moyo was not only fired but also arrested by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission over a US$60 million Covid-19 PPEs procurement saga.

Moyo was arrested together with the owner of Drax International Delish Nguwaya.

Fired former minister Obadiah Moyo

Nguwaya’s company, Drax (Pvt) Limited allegedly robbed the nation of millions of dollars through inflating Covid-19 equipment, drugs and personal protective clothing.

The deputy minister John Mangwiro is also under fire for pushing Natpharm to award a company, Young Health Care, a tender worth US$5.6 million, prejudicing the national purse of close to US$2 million.

Finance ministry

Ministry of Finance Officials have also played a part in the abuse of COVID-19 funds since they are at the centre of disbursing funds.

Tenders were being approved regardless of the said companies not meeting necessary requirements and some of the companies were incapacitated for the tasks.

Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube

An investigation showed that ministerial officials from finance and health were working in cahoots to swindle money from treasury.

Funds were reportedly released to companies that were willing to kick back the treasury officials.

Social Welfare ministry

The ministry of Social Welfare was also rocked with corruption during the pandemic as funds were reportedly said to be stolen from quarantine facilities.

Equipment and food meant for returnees was reportedly sold on black market and never reached the quarantine facilities.

You may also read:

COVID-19 looting spree: Government approves US$1 million for PPEs… prices inflated by over 200%

Covidgate:Fired minister Moyo’s ‘corrupt’ past haunts him, Auditor-General accuses him of bleeding Chitungwiza hospital

Covidgate: MDCA piles pressure on Govt… demands public inquiry

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