STATE universities and several colleges have been rocked by tender scams that have attracted the attention of the President’s Office after costing government institutions millions of dollars as a result of fraudulently awarded contracts.
By Elias Mambo
Investigations revealed many state universities and government colleges have been prejudiced of millions as a result of tenders for works ranging from plumbing, cleaning of offices and halls of residence, maintenance of campus grounds and procurement of stationary and equipment.
Sources at the Midlands State University (MSU) said the President’s Office had intervened resulting in some officials being dismissed from work for fraudulently awarding tenders to undeserving companies.
“That issue (tender scam) is very sensitive at MSU and the President’s Office had to intervene to stop the rot in the tendering processes,” said a senior lecturer at the university who requested anonymity.
Sources also said during the inclusive government era university officials were grossly abusing their positions to benefit themselves at the expense of the institutions.
“Officials took advantage of the policy discord during the coalition government period (2009-2013) to milk universities through shady deals that involved their own fake companies,” a source said.
The Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education was this week reported to have unearthed massive corruption and abuse of funds at Belvedere Technical Teachers’ College in Harare.
According to our sister publication NewsDay, the college could have been prejudiced of over US$500 000 between 2009 and 2012 after Matthew Gandawa, an accountant at the college, together with an intern in the same department — both of whom have since been arrested — connived to offer students fraudulent receipts after pocketing money paid for fees.
According to internal audit reports for 2009-2011 and 2013 sent to the Comptroller and Auditor General, among other scams several students with arrears at the college were corruptly cleared by the accounts department, costing the college of over US$200 000 in 2012. Auditors also discovered clients who hired college facilities in 2011 were yet to pay for the services.
However, an MSU public relations officer who did not give his/her name in response to emailed questions refuted all allegations of corruption in the tendering processes.
“The university is not aware of any fraudulent tender awards,” said the official.
“University tenders are in conformity to the dictates of statutory instrument 171 of 2002 which regulates procedures and processes in tendering.”
At Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT) senior officials are allegedly running private businesses which compete against the university’s business ventures.
“A senior official has been running a catering business while at the same time he is in charge of the university’s income generating projects,” said a senior CUT employee.
“Questions are also being raised over the purchase and lease of Orange Grove Motel when the university has the Chinese-built state-of-the-art CUT Hotel.”
Most contracts at CUT are said to be awarded to companies in unclear circumstances with senior officials suspected of having a hand in the tendering processes.
CUT liaison officer Chenjerai Muchenje confirmed the college has had problems with the lessee operating Orange Grove motel.
“We acknowledge that the person who is renting the facility owes the University some money but he is in process of settling the debt as evidenced by the recent payments amounting to US$80 000,” Muchenje said.
In his response to the unprocedural awarding of tenders, Muchenje said: “The University follows tender procedures as outlined by the tender board…”
Muchenje also said the university is not aware of any individual running projects which compete with CUT income generating projects.