Ministry directors not off the hook over graft

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Herbert Zharare
Two directors in the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development, who are part of four senior officials exonerated of charges of attempting to block a probe into rampant abuse of public funds meant for roads rehabilitation are not off the hook as the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission is proceeding with investigations into the matter, Business Weekly can reveal.

The directors, Angeline Karonga, legal director and Engineer Eric Gumbie, who is director of roads had been exonerated of any wrong doing in a letter by the Public Service Commission secretary Dr Mariyawanda Nzuwah dated September 11 this year.

However, it emerged the officials were freed after some senior Government officials in the previous administration, interfered with ZACC investigations resulting in the officials’ being exonerated on a technicality.

Eng Gumbie had also escaped unscathed in a case where Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (Zinara) had implicated him in massive abuse of funds in the Airport Road deal that ZACC by then had reportedly recommended for closure under unclear circumstances according to documents in possession of the Business Weekly.

Karonga and Eng Gumbie are accused of awarding tenders on public works to construction firms in which they are directors or those they are linked to.

Zinara technical director Engineer Moses Juma and Goromonzi RDC chief executive officer Mr Trust Madhovi, are some of the public officials who were reportedly axed alongside Eng Gumbie and Karonga.

However, fresh information emerged this week that ZACC has since dusted its files and the case was being finalized with a view to forward it to the National Prosecuting Authority for farther action.

A highly placed source in the anti-graft body revealed to the Business Weekly this week that all was not well with the officials, who had been shielded by some politicians in Government.

“The case cannot be cleared. It still alive. We are still investigating the case. After that we will send it to the National Prosecuting Authority. It is up to the courts to clear them,” said the source.

The freeing of the ministry officials on the grounds that their case was not properly handled, sources say, had dampened the probe into the matter.

Reports indicated Government’s investigating team was appointed in terms of Section 46 (2) of the Procurement Act after the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) directed the State Procurement Board (SPB) to commission an investigation into various contracts flagged in a forensic report on Zinara by Grant Thornton.

Reports had indicated that the team — comprising officials from the SPB, the Auditor-General’s Office and the National Economic Conduct Inspectorate (NECI) — reviewed the procurement process of tender awards under Zinara’s special projects valued at $71,5 million and R31,5 million ($2,5 million) covering a five-year period from 2011 to 2016.

The suspensions of the four public officials had followed letters written by SPB executive chairperson Ambassador Buzawani Mothobi on August 22, 2017 to the Ministry of Transport, Zinara and the then Ministry of Rural Development, Preservation of National Culture and Heritage.

In the case Eng Gumbie was accused of hiring his company, Tencraft Investments to supply equipment without going to tender or declaring interests during the construction of the Airport Road.

It is alleged Karonga and Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) chief executive  officer David Chaota are co-directors in Akodec, a company that features prominently as a contractor for road works funded by Zinara.

Zinara in its Airport Technical Audit Report of June 2015 raised a number of irregularities in the manner some senior directors handled the construction work after Government took over from Augur Investments.

A ZACC summation of cases had, however, indicated that the case C/S 174 of the Code (Criminal Abuse of Duty) handled by an investigator a Mandofa, involving the accused (Eng Gumbie) who was the principal director of Airport Road Construction, hired his personal company Tencraft Investments to supply equipment without going to tender or declaring interests was referred for closing.

This is despite Zinara in its technical audit report detailed that the Department of Roads in the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development took over the project without proper documentation.

“The case was not closed at all. A politician (name withheld) was telling the people that the cases were closed. They are still alive,” revealed the source.

Zinara pumped $14 818 893,18 for Coca-Cola, Dieppe to Harare Drive and Airport main  gate realignment intersection. The scope variation changed in October 2014 when Dieppe to Coca-Cola was brought on board but no communication was made to Zinara by the Department of Roads.

The audit report indicates that Zinara paid $11 444 694,21 as at 30 June 2015 and there was an outstanding payment of $3 337 123,61 and drainage works from Dieppe to Coca-Cola section had an outstanding amount of $300 000.

From Zinara’s budget, Equipment was $5 141 301 (most of it supplied by Eng Gumbie’s Tencraft), wages $1 119 689,61, major materials $335 854,48, asphalt overlay $2 500 339,05 and accessories and safety $684 633,80.

In its report the road administration observed that 52 percent of the project money was consumed by equipment hire, 36 percent by road related materials, 8 percent went to wages and 4 percent to accessories and safety materials.

In its observation, Zinara argued that poor project management planning on the part of the implementer left a lot to be desired as the road department was just buying excess materials, resulting in money being tied in unwanted materials.

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