POTRAZ Boss moves to except to new charges

The Director General for that Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (POTRAZ) Gift Machengete made an application to have his new charges quashed by a magistrate following the State’s amendment of his initial charge.

The State initially charged him with criminal abuse of office charges which they later threw out for a different one which is the crime of inducing a procuring entity to engage in procurement by a method that is prohibited by the Act of public procurement and disposal of public assets regulations of 2018.

Machengete has contested the validity of the new charge though his lawyers Selby Hwacha and Farai Zuva indicating that it is devoid of facts that explicitly show how the offence was committed and that in the alleged charge, all he did was sign a contract prepared by the legal team at POTRAZ.

“…the charge as read by the State outline is completely devoid of any details, particulars, facts or information as to how the accused allegedly ‘induced’ or intended to induce POTRAZ as a procuring entity to engage in a procurement by a method that is prohibited by the Act, facts alleging inducement are critical. In the absence of anything in the charge and or outline of the State case particularising exactly how the accused allegedly induced or intended to induce POTRAZ to adopt the alleged prohibited  procurement method, the charge is vague and it does not constitute a cognizable and certain offence to which the accused person can be asked to answer.

“ It is not legally tenable for an accused to plead to a charge in which there is no averment as to how he allegedly committed the offence,” the application reads.

The matter has been postponed to March 25 for trial and the State is expected to respond to the application on the same date.

Regional Magistrate Hosea Mujaya is the one hearing the matter.

Allegations are that sometime in December 2017, POTRAZ a procuring entity resolved to procure containerized village information centres (CVICs) which were going to be mounted country wide.

On February 7, 2018, Machengete wrote to the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (PRAZ) requesting a waiver of procurement regulations to enable the Authority to purchase CVICs through quotations citing that container conversion was a specialized area.

PRAZ wrote back to POTRAZ advising them to follow the provisions of section 30 of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Act which provides for the procurement methods.

The accounting officer was directed to procure through the normal tender process and on February 15, Machengete caused the sourcing of quotations for the supply of the CVICs from four companies and a memo recommending the transaction he also approved.

POTRAZ subsequently purchased 24 CVICs from B Smart business solutions at $70 682.95 each making a total value of $ 1 494 104, 33 through comparative schedule despite the fact that the value involved needed competitive bidding method in terms of the said Act and regulations Machengete had been directed to follow by PRAZ.

On April 6 Machengete then signed the contract between POTRAZ and B Smart solutions for the purchase and supply of the CVICs. B Smart Solutions has since erected 20 CVICs and Machengete has since paid $1 032 755. 38.

Machengete acted without lawful excuse by inducing POTRAZ a procurement entity in terms of the Act to engage in procurement of CVICs using quotation method that is prohibited by the Act in view of the price of the procurement requirement, the court heard.