THE Energy ministry has ordered the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC), a subsidiary of the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority, to subcontract the US$200 million Gwanda Solar Project awarded to dodgy businessman Wicknell Chivayo’s Intratrek after the company failed to implement the controversial deal, the Zimbabwe Independent has established.
BY ELIAS MAMBO
Ironically, Intratrek was given an upfront payment of US$5 million before commencing work at the behest of Energy minister Samuel Undenge, despite failing to do any meaningful work on site.
In a letter to ZPC’s managing director Noah Gwariro, dated July 18 2017, the permanent secretary in the Energy ministry, Patson Mbiriri, said the Gwanda solar project contract should be amended to allow ZPC to deal with subcontractors.
“The ministry notes with serious concern that activity at the Gwanda solar project site remains non-existent because the main contract has to be amended to allow ZPC to deal directly with subcontractors for purpose of finishing the outstanding preliminary works,” reads the letter.
“Given that ZPC and the main contractor are agreed on the compelling need to take such action and subcontractors stand to gain from same, you are hereby instructed to engage the subcontractors forthwith so that preliminary works resume whilst the main contract is being amended.”
The letter comes at a time when government has also requested that Chivayo revises downwards his initial charges which were pegged at US$200 million.
Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa wrote to ZPC advising it that Chivhayo had to revise the cost structure of the solar project amid concerns that the costs were inflated.
“I write to request that you endeavour to raise the whole amount of the project cost locally to the extent possible,” Chinamasa wrote in a letter dated April 5 2017.
“I need also to mention that information at hand suggest that due to technological improvements in solar, project costs should be coming down. May you therefore relook at the project costs with a view to adjusting it downwards where possible.”
Chivayo was controversially awarded the Gwanda solar project in 2016, but has not made any progress despite having been given a US$5 million without a bank guarantee.
A year after winning the multi-million dollar tender and despite getting a US$5 million payment for pre-commencement works, Intratek Zimbabwe reportedly abandoned the project site after only three months’ work, it has emerged.
According to sources in Spitzkop suburb where the project is sited, Intratek Zimbabwe workers hit the ground running around October 2016, but had by December moved all earth-moving equipment from the site. Zesa sources said the ZPC board is not happy with the directive from the ministry.
“The board met and resolved that there is no way a new subcontractor can be awarded the solar project because Chivayo was already paid a deposit to do the job,” the source said.
“How will ZPC recover the US$5 million paid to Intratrek,” said the source adding: “Chivayo has to be pushed so that the job is done.”
The solar project has long been mired in controversy; from the awarding of the tender in October 2015 to the April 2016 payment of US$5 million for pre-commencement works by ZPC, which was reportedly done without a bank guarantee. The US$5 million covered feasibility studies, topographical surveys, borehole sinking, site clearance, geo-technical surveying, site fencing, wayleaves and construction of administrative structures.
Last year the Independent reported that Zimbabwe’s controversial power generation projects have been inflated by more than US$500 million raising suspicion that Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa) managers and senior government officials could have corruptly benefitted through price escalations.
Zesa is rocked by a massive tender scandals in which government has entrusted the country’s critical multi-billion-dollar energy projects to dodgy businessmen who have criminal records, ranging from fraud to drug trafficking.
Zimbabwe is planning to construct three solar plants, each generating 100 megawatts. The initial cost, as of 2014, was US$183 million for each of the projects bringing the total cost to US$549 million.
The solar tenders were won by China Jiangxi Corporation (CJC), ZTE Corporation and Intratrek Zimbabwe (Pvt) Ltd.