US$1 million corruption storm: Mthuli Ncube hoodwinked by serial fraudster?

Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube
  • Officials claim Ncube was hoodwinked by serial fraudster 
  • Information ministry says deal was only stopped after Mnangagwa raised objection in Cabinet 
  • Activist call for arrest of culprits 

FINANCE minister Mthuli Ncube has reportedly pleaded for clemency from President Emmerson Mnangagwa after his ministry authorised the payment of US$1 million for a consignment of Covid-19 equipment at inflated prices.

In a development that exposes the unorthodox way of doing business by government, impeccable sources told Zim Morning Post that Ncube who holds a PhD in Mathematical Finance from Cambridge University has said the contract was authorized on the assumption that the company was linked to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s son.

“The company at the centre of conflation and possible corruption is Drax International, which is owned by Delish Nguwaya, who is well known for name dropping. Ncube admitted in Cabinet that no due diligence was done,” the source said.

Nguwaya went to the ministry and requested that they authorize the payment of the consignment adding that he is a business partner of Sean Mnangagwa, referring to the project as having the blessing of number one.

This situation appears to be the tip of an iceberg given the propensity to abuse emergency public procurement relating to COVID-19.

The consignment is in respect of a contract given under number NAT DP 04/2020 and contains masks, overalls and test kits.

In a letter dated May 8 and seen by Zim Morning Post, Finance ministry permanent secretary George Guvamatanga gave a directive to the then Ministry of Health secretary Agnes Mahomva to facilitate for Drax to deliver its consignment worth US$987,720.

Drax International is said to have stood to profit nearly half-a-million United States dollars if the deal sailed through. Drax owner Nguwaya has a criminal past that includes multiple arrests for armed robbery, cocaine possession and extortion.

As debate on the matter raged on social media Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information Nick Mangwana revealed that it took president Emmerson Mnangagwa to flag the corrupt transaction.

I understand that when the President saw this in Cabinet, he personally flagged it up and directed that no such payment should be made. That payment was therefore not made.  An audit was ordered and Zim Treasury will issue a comprehensive statement on this,” Mangwana said.

In defense of the finance ministry Guvamatanga said, “it is TRUE that we authorised the release of 15 000 test kits that were at the airport. It is FALSE that a payment of $1m was authorised, neither was it paid nor will it be paid.”

However, other sources say the Finance minister’s lame excuse is like hiding behind a finger after a deal has gone wrong.

“Ncube was in the deal (anga achidyawo zino ipapo). He is now appearing (sic) as if he did not know anything (ari kunyepera kuzungaira),” the source said.

Human Rights Activist and Constitutional lawyer Brian Kagoro demanded that government investigates the matter and the culprits be brought to book.

It takes less than 2 hours to establish the beneficial owners of the company that supplied masks for these grossly inflated prices. If they are politically connected individuals, we demand to see prosecution and imprisonment without fear or favour,” Kagoro said on twitter. 

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