INFORMATION Communications Technology (ICT) minister Supa Mandiwanzira (pictured below) has spoken out over a series of allegations being levelled against him which include that he corruptly handpicked a Chinese company, Megawatt Energy, to investigate overpricing of equipment to NetOne by Chinese Technology company Huawei.
By Kudzai Kuwaza
The claims also entail that he improperly authorised the Postal Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) to release money which was used to buy vehicles for him and his deputy Win Mlambo.
Mandiwanzira is also accused of stopping NetOne management from attaching property at Metbank which owes NetOne US$700 000 as well as purchasing Mlambo’s car without going to tender.
Quizzed about the above allegations yesterday, Mandiwanzira denied he was involved in corrupt deals, saying Megawatt was tasked to investigate the US$218 million NetOne project with the approval of the Office of the President and Cabinet.
In 2012, government partnered Huawei in rolling out NetOne’s National Mobile Broadband (NMBB) project as competition in the telecoms sector intensified on the back of massive growth in data and overlay services.
Information gathered shows that the deal was mired in dodgy activities and corruption resulting in the overpricing of equipment.
“It is now public knowledge that Megawatt produced a detailed report which indicated prejudice to NetOne of unbelievable proportions (reports say US$100 million),” Mandiwanzira said.
“Out of that only US$30 million has been recovered. The company that overcharged committed to pay Megawatt for all the work they did and via a success commission.”
Mandiwanzira said for doing work that brought back US$30 million, Megawatt must be applauded and not investigated, adding that they were brought in “with the relevant consultations and approvals from my superiors”.
There was a flurry of letters written between NetOne, Megawatt, Huawei and Mandiwanzira’s ministry between May last year and early this year in an effort to resolve the controversial issue.
Asked why Potraz purchased cars for him and his deputy, Mandiwanzira insisted the deal was above board as it was approved by the OPC and Ministry of Finance. He said in his case the vehicles in question actually belong to CMED and not him personally.
“Anyone suggesting that I borrowed money from Potraz for my personal use either does not know how government functions, has a sinister agenda or is part of a dirty political campaign against me,” Mandiwanzira charged.
“In the case of my ministry, it received written authority from the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Dr Misheck Sibanda, to purchase two condition of service vehicles for the minister and another for the deputy minister.”
He said Treasury concurrence was sought from the Finance ministry by Sibanda and the ministry’s permanent secretary Sam Kundishora to buy the cars as part of their conditions of service.
Mandiwanzira dismissed as “nonsensical” allegations that Mlambo’s car was bought without going to tender, saying there is documentation from the State Procurement Board approving the purchase of the vehicle.
Correspondence by the ministry seeking the approval to buy vehicles and those granting sought approvals were done between October and November 2015.
“I spent nearly a year using my personal cars for government business until those cars were bought. I am not that wasteful with public funds as some people would like the public to think,” Mandiwanzira said.
The ICT minister also scoffed at allegations that he stopped NetOne from attaching property at Metbank over the US$700 000 debt.
“It is entirely ridiculous to suggest that I would block NetOne from collecting its money from Metropolitan Bank. Why would I do that? I am not a shareholder at Metropolitan Bank and they have no branch in my Nyanga constituency,” Mandiwanzira said.
“Besides, the money they invested in Metropolitan Bank was done when I was not even minister of ICT. After I became minister, I had a meeting with the NetOne CEO Reward Kangai and the bank’s officials where I insisted they should go, discuss and resolve the matter amicably.”
Mandiwanzira said after his intervention and the resultant talks, Metbank subsequently paid nearly US$500 000 of the US$700 000 amount and have offered to pay the remainder using Treasury Bills. He said bank statements are available to prove that.
See full interview on these allegations and other burning issues next week.