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President’s office in tender scam

THE Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) has unilaterally awarded a multi-million-dollar project to a local firm called Univern Enterprises to implement the Zimbabwe Integrated Transport Information Management System (Zimtis) without going to tender or ascertaining the cost of the project, resulting in clashes with the State Procurement Board (SPB), the Zimbabwe Independent can reveal.

By Elias Mambo

OPC wants Univern to carry out the project without the SPB conducting due diligence.

Univern is a locally-registered information technology systems firm which trades as Southern Region Trading Company (SRTC).

Zimtis is new software which assists in monitoring of vehicles from tollgates and the borders to minimise revenue leakages.

In a letter dated August 30 2016, written by the deputy chief secretary to the OPC, Ray Ndhlukula, addressed to the SPB acting principal officer Samson Mutanhaurwa, the OPC requested for a blanket approval of Univern’s contract without going to tender.

“As you are aware, the Office of the President and Cabinet is co-ordinating the modernisation project of traffic and transport-related systems that shall trunk from the tollgate system under Zinara-Univern Enterprises public-private partnership,” reads the letter.

“The office is therefore steering the rapid and co-ordinated implementation of the following outstanding elements of the modernisation project: computerised vehicle inspection, computerised learner’s licence, integration with ZRP (Zimbabwe Republic Police), Zinara (Zimbabwe National Roads Administration), CVR (Central Vehicle Registry), RMT and local authorities.

“Under Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation outstanding elements include livestock identification and management systems while under the local government ministry outstanding elements are municipal billing system, pre-paid water metres and integration with elements of traffic and transport management system. Authority is therefore sought for the approval of the direct engagement of Univern Enterprises.”

Information at hand also shows that Univern Enterprises was also awarded contracts which include electronic tollgates system, vehicle licencing, third party insurance, high security number plates and Zinara transit systems, among many other contracts without going to tender.

Ndhlukula’s letter to the SPB came days after Univern wrote to him proposing that the company be considered for the contract.
In another letter dated August 26 2016, Univern managing director Laurence Sher, wrote: “Please find attached, a consolidated proposal of the integrated information system proposed as Zimbabwe Integrated Country Engine.

“The proposal is including elements already implemented under Zinara-Univern Enterprises tolling and licencing system and CVR-Univern vehicle registration and number plates system.

“We enclose the following: executive summary of the proposal, integration diagram, Zinara project finances, proposed livestock management system, ZRP traffic management proposal, proposed local authorities utility systems and a complete integrated transport information system proposal.

“The proposal includes the government central information repository of a central data management centre. We hope you find our proposal a befitting solution to the modernisation requirements of the government of Zimbabwe.”

However, the minutes of the SPB board seen by this paper show that the secretariat has reservations on the blanket approval of such a project without going to tender.

“The secretariat noted that Section 20 of the Procurement Act provides for written directives by OPC on policy, the current minute from OPC on behalf of other entities is a request not a policy directive,” reads part of the minutes.

The minutes also state that the OPC, through the department of modernisation, “identified” Univern as the technical partner for the Zimtis project.

“On July 20 2016, an all-stakeholders’ meeting was held at SPB with the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure Development raising reservations over direct appointment of Univern Enterprises,” the minutes say.

“The current request is accompanied by voluminous documents submitted by Univern Enterprises as proposal for the various projects. To note is that there are no costs in the submission, it could be something that can be determined once the project deliverables are determined in detail, but the total cost of ownership need to be determined for the project.”

The minutes also state that the lifespan of the project (equipment and software) and total value of the project must be ascertained too.

“Due diligence is a necessity for the project to ensure value for money, evaluation and monitoring processes,” the minutes further say.

The SPB also noted that “ZRP was granted authority for direct engagement of Univern Enterprises for Vehicle Theft Squad (VTS) under Zimtis through PBR 0574 of June 14 2016. The request came through the OPC.”

“The board granted a ‘No Objection’ to the accounting officer’s (ZRP) request for engagement of Univern Enterprises for integration of the electronic traffic, vehicle and firearms management system (ETVCMS) under the Zimtis project at an estimated cost of US$113 749 655 through PBR 0665B of August 18 2016,” the minutes read.

The secretariat also stated that there was need for the board to have a copy of the overall Zimtis project document detailing the scope of the project possibly with estimated project costs for the entire project.

Contacted for comment, Univern director Musekiwa Khumbula in charge of communication yesterday said his company was not aware of the dispute between the OPC and the SPB over the blanket directive.

“We are not privy to internal communication between OPC and SPB. If there is any dispute between the OPC and the SPB, then the two organisations will resolve that. Our role is to deliver a service and we are ready to do that,” said Khumbula.

Ndhlukula’s letter came at a time when the SPB had told government ministries that it will not accept directives from them in awarding tenders.

The SPB chairperson Buzwani Mothobi wrote in January 2016 to all ministers, accounting officers as well as permanent secretaries that SPB would only accept directives from President Robert Mugabe, which is in line with the Procurement Act.

The OPC is Mugabe’s office.

“In terms of Section 20 of the Act, only the President may issue written policy directives on matters concerning public procurement,” Mothobi said.

Mothobi said contract awards for formal tenders and limited tenders shall be first forwarded to the SPB for review before the accounting officers awarded the contracts.

“The policy directives shall only be effective once published in the Government Gazette in line with Section 20(5) of the (Procurement) Act. In that light, the State Procurement Board shall not be directed or controlled by any person or authority in the exercise of its functions in line with Section 5(2) of the Act,” he said.

“In terms of Section 21 of SI (Statutory Instrument) 126 of 2015, the State Procurement Board shall not be compelled to issue ‘No objection’ on application for review based on directives issued by principals that are not compliant with Section 20(5) of the Act.”

Over the last few years, the OPC has increasingly found itself being entangled in dodgy deals.

The OPC blocked the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment from investigating Sakunda Energy for its role in the controversial Dema Diesel Power Plant.

This came amid concerns Mugabe’s office could have corruptly helped Sakunda to secure the stinking deal after it emerged that APR Energy Holdings initially won the tender, but was later sidelined.

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