HomeLocal NewsHCC tender scandal deepens

HCC tender scandal deepens

Tinashe Kairiza

THE massive tender scandal rocking Harare City Council (HCC) has taken a new twist after it emerged in an explosive email trail that a local company, Microlab Scientific (Microlab), offered to use its connections at the Procurement Regulatory Authority (Praz) to award South African-based Nanotech Water solutions a multi-million dollar chemical procurement tender in exchange for a partnership venture with the foreign entity, the Zimbabwe Independent can reveal.

This comes as the city council has cancelled the tendering process for the supply of water treatment chemicals after revelations that some of the bidding firms were unprocedurally allowed to test their solutions before the tender was flighted.

Irregularities shrouding the aborted tender process, which have since become the subject of an ongoing Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) probe, were ironically reported by Microlab, the same company that allegedly sought to arm-twist Praz into awarding Nanotech the lucrative tender.

However, Nanotech turned down the offer by Microlab to leverage on its “internal relationships” with Praz in exchange for a joint venture.Email leaks seen by the Zimbabwe Independent show that on June 8 last year, Microlab Scientific managing director Walter Jera wrote to Nanotech Water Solutions programmes manager Gideon Reyneke appealing for a partnership deal in exchange for favours from the tendering authority.

Jera wrote: “Please find tender request attached. We are looking for a company with the required technology as sought, to partner with, as we would want to take advantage of our personal internal relationships with the institution tendering.

“Please urgently advise if interested and you have the required technology.”However, Nanotech, which has done a pre-trial test of its chloride dioxide solution and produced a report that shows the city council is pumping water contaminated with toxins that can potentially trigger liver and central nervous system ailments, turned down the request by Microlab Scientific.

“Good day Walter, I hope this mail finds you well. Thank you for the mail and the information provided, I am sorry that I did not receive this mail last week. I would not be able to partner with you on this specific tender. Have a nice day,” Reyneke replied, through email correspondence seen by the Zimbabwe Independent dated June 19, 2019.

Jera subsequently wrote to Zacc on November 27, 2019, saying Nanotech had been given “prior access to carry out assessments of the work being tendered for,” in violation of procurement regulations, among a litany of other allegations.

“City of Harare had given one of the bidders, one Nanotech of South Africa, prior access to carry out assessments of the work being tendered for, and Nanotech had submitted a proposal…This is a violation of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act 22:23, as this clearly favoured one bidder,” part of Jera’s correspondence to Zacc seen by this newspaper reads.

However, Jera did not furnish Zacc with the emails he had written to Nanotech, suggesting that he could leverage on the personal relationships he held within Praz to win the South African firm the multi-million dollar tender.

Prior to lodging a report with Zacc, Jera had also written to Harare town clerk Hosea Chisango, on November 19 2019, pointing to several irregularities entangling the tender process.

He wrote: “Thank you for your response to our tender for provision of the above service, dated November 13 2019. We, however, wish to raise concerns regarding your handling of this particular tender, as below:

“It is now public knowledge that you awarded the tender to one Nanotech, a South African company which you have chosen to hide in the award letter, knowing that you are violating section 58 stated above.”

Jera confirmed to the Zimbabwe Independent the authenticity of his emails to Nanotech, but said it was only a ploy to lift the lid on the litany of flaws marring the tender process.

“It is given we had to entice them (Nanotech) to shed light. It is obvious fact that we would not choose Nanotech over our partner for the tender given the glaring difference in strength — our partner being miles up,” Jera told the Independent last week.

As revealed by this newspaper last week, before the water treatment chemicals tender was flighted, Nanotech, at the behest of the city, had conducted water quality trials, after which it produced a damning report which showed that the water being pumped to Harare’s three million residents was littered with hepatotoxins and neurotoxins that could potentially cause liver and central nervous system related diseases.

Council, currently using a cocktail of eight purification chemicals sourced at a cost of US$3 million, cannot flush out the deadly toxins from the water.
In its proposal, Nanotech had presented a solution of chlorine dioxide at a cost of US$2 million on a monthly basis, which, according to pre-trial tests, can eliminate the toxins.

With the tender process now put on hold, the Harare provincial Joint Operations Command (Joc) has since declared the city’s dire water situation a national security threat.

Some of the companies which were vying for the multi-million dollar tender include Nanotech Water Solutions, Microlab Scientific, Boltgas, Water Dimensions International and Aqua Global.

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