POLICE should immediately conduct an investigation and prosecute senior government officials implicated in the shady multi-million-dollar Gwanda solar contract after a probe by a parliamentary portfolio committee revealed that the project is unlawful, a report by MPs says.
By Bernard Mpofu
The Gwanda contract was among several power projects awarded to Intratrek which is fronted by ex-convict Wicknell Chivayo.
A report done by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy seen by the Zimbabwe Independent — which has been exposing the corrupt Zesa deals for several years now — shows that between April 2015 and July 2016, the Zimbabwe Power Company, a unit of Zesa Holdings, paid Intratrek a total of US$5 644 130,80 for design and feasibility study as well as for procurement activities for the project which has failed to take off. The contract balance stood at US$167 224 566,80.
The first tender for the project was opened in 2013 and won by China Jiangxi Corporation. The solar plant was projected to cost around US$183 million with a capacity to generate 100 megawatts.
Intratrek was among five other bidders that participated and lost, raising suspicion that it was corruptly awarded the tender. Information at hand shows that the State Procurement Board during that period was regulated by the repealed State From Procurement Act.
According to the report, the Gwanda solar project was fraught with irregularities in the tender process; negotiations of submitted bids; vetting of bidders and the role and profile of Intratrek; corporate governance at Zesa Holdings. The report also exposed cases of conflict of interest around the multi-million dollar project.
The committee, according to the report, noted that certain procedures and provisions of the Act were violated during the award for both the first and second tenders.
“The committee has no doubt that there was political interference in the awarding of the Gwanda solar project to Intratrek and in the release of public funds for the pre-commencement works without a bank guarantee,” the report says.
“The committee is very much convinced that the award to Intratrek was done un-procedurally, unlawfully and there may have been an exchange of monies between the negotiators of the deal. There is need to clear the controversy surrounding this project in order to attract genuine and meaningful investment for the project.
“ZPC should terminate the contract with Intratrek, given that that Mr Chivayo has a criminal record and does not qualify to be a managing director of a registered company in Zimbabwe. ZPC must take over the project.”
The committee also recommended that the Auditor-General should conduct a value for money audit to determine the losses that government may have suffered through this contract.
“The Minister of Energy and Power Development need to appoint a new board(s) for the entity, which is professional and has the requisite skills considering issues of gender and regional representation. Tenure of boards should go in line with the life of Parliament to allow continuity of oversight work,” the report says.
“The Zimbabwe Republic Police should conduct an investigation on ministers and deputy ministers implicated in the scandal at the Gwanda Solar Project. The money paid to Intratrek should be recovered after investigations are concluded.”