Row over roads tender scam

THE Department of Roads, under the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure Development, is caught in a new tender scandal, as it emerged it has been flouting tender procedures and creating rent-seeking opportunities for self-aggrandisement. It has been inviting informal tenders for high cost projects which are supposed to go through formal tender processes and breaching financial limits for some projects for corrupt individuals and corporate gain.

By Tinashe Kairiza

Under the country’s procurement laws, the maximum value for the supply of goods and services advertised as informal tender invitations must not exceed US$500 000.

Similarly, state departments are stipulated to invite suppliers to submit applications for formal tenders for goods and services valued over US$500 000. The department has, however, been inviting informal tenders for projects which amount up to US$10 million to avoid scrutiny, while ensuring the enrichment of individuals in the ministry and beneficiary companies.

Some companies have complained about the practice. Documents in the possession of the Zimbabwe Independent show that Pushduck Enterprises, represented by Mhishi Nkomo Legal Practice, is on the verge of suing the department after it advertised an informal tender invitation for goods and services reportedly valued at over US$500 000.

In the advertisement last month, the Department of Roads invited suppliers to take part in an informal tender process for the supply of a consignment of construction material. Under Tender Number: RDS 19 of 2017, the Department of Roads invited suppliers to respond to an informal tender invitation for the supply and delivery of bitumen, tar prime, stable 60 and cat mix, reportedly valued at more than US$500 000.

The department also invited suppliers to take part in an informal tender invitation number RDS 20 of 2017 to submit applications for the supply and delivery of road marking materials, also valued at over US$500 000. Under informal tender number RDS 22 of 2017, suppliers were invited to submit applications to supply and deliver crushed stones, dust and river sand.

Mhishi, Nkomo Legal Practice, acting on behalf of Pushduck Enterprises, on November 20 2017 wrote to the Transport permanent secretary Machiwenyika Mapuranga calling for the department to withdraw the informal tender invitations.

“We still act on behalf of Pushduck Enterprise kindly note our interest. We wrote to you on 26 October 2017 wherein we demanded that you retract the advertisement for the procurement via informal tender of the following products:
“Supply and delivery of bitumen, tar prime, stable 60 and cat mix published under Tender Number RDS 19 of 2017.

Supply and delivery of road making materials published under Tender number RDS 20 of 2017.

“The demand was made on the basis that it offended the provisions of the Procurement (Amendment) Regulations, Statutory Instrument 19 of 2015 as read with Statutory Instrument 171 of 2002. The quoted pieces of legislation specifically state that the maximum value of informal tenders shall not exceed US$500 000 for the supply of goods and services.

“For the avoidance of doubt, the statutory limit on informal tenders which states that it should not exceed US$500 000 is not only limited to a single transaction. The cumulative supply of the products should not exceed the statutory figure. We have at our disposal proof that shows that from all the eight (rural) provinces in 2016, the figures exceeded the statutory limit.

“We thus demand for the last time that you retract the informal tender advertisement by 24 November 2017. In the unfortunate event that you do not heed this call, we shall be left with no option to pursue all legal options to protect the interests of our client,” reads the letter.

When contacted for comment on the tender and procurement irregularities, Mapuranga’s personal assistant said the permanent secretary was “busy at the moment”.

Mapuranga was not answering his mobile phones. Efforts to contact the principal director (technical services) Eric Gumbi were also fruitless.

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