Police crack unit probes Harare City Council US$6m scandal

Ex-Harare Mayor Herbert Gomba

A crack team from President Emmerson M n a n g a g w a ’ s office is probing the Harare City Council (HCC) amid revelations the local authority could have been prejudiced of US$6m in underhand deals involving the procurement of water pumping machines and treatment chemicals.

The investigation by the Special Anti-Corruption Unit (SACU) comes after the same team arrested then Mayor Herbert Gomba and council directors over alleged abuse of office following the illegal sale of council land in Harare.

Business Times is informed that a report has since been made implicating top directors at HCC together with the Town Clerk, Hosea Chisango, who is former director for water.

The HCC is reportedly importing chemicals worth US$6m per month from South Africa and China despite assurances of local supplies from Chemplex Corporation.

Continued reliance on imported water treatment chemicals and unclear procurement procedures on water pumping machines however, triggered an investigation by SACU and other law enforcement agents with the net being cast wider to the man in charge of the City Council.

It is understood that HCC has been dragging its feet in payment of Chemplex chemical supplies resulting in the debt ballooning to more than ZWL$20m while payments to South African companies have been done in hard cash through middlemen.

There are other allegations that some directors at HCC created briefcase companies which have been used to import water treatment chemicals.

SACU head Thabani Mpofu confirmed the investigation saying it involves the wholesome water provision chain where there are allegations raised around procurement.

“We are undertaking an investigation around the whole water provision chain after there have been reports around impropriety on the procurement of machinery for pumping water and water treatment chemicals,” Mpofu said.

Chisango was not picking calls yesterday and could not also respond to text messages.

Business Times is further informed that the continued use of middlemen to import chemicals in foreign currency has raised eyebrows among various councillors and government officials.

The argument is that Chisango who is former director of water at HCC has allegedly continued with the middleman regime even after his appointment as the town clerk.

There are also indications that there have been deliberate efforts by officials at HCC to frustrate the appointment of a company called Nanotec that had submitted water treatment technology solutions to Harare.

At the moment, HCC is using nine chemicals for water treatment and HCC has had to shut down its Morton Jaffray Water Works at various points due to constrained foreign currency availability.

According to documents seen by Business Times, it has been established that despite the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe’s determination on the tender, Chisango still went on to cancel the tender citing that only one out of three bidders was compliant.

“A report was written to PRAZ seeking approval for the City to go ahead with the pilot project with the four companies.

The PRAZ oversight committee on September 24, 2019 indicated that the accounting officer should seek historical documents from the companies to ensure compliance,” said Mabhena Moyo, acting director of water in a letter addressed to Minister for Harare Oliver Chidawu.

“Of the four companies, Nanotech was the compliant company except on letter of approval for the chemical to be used for water treatment.

The companies were contacted to supply the historical documents including Nanotech.

“A report to PRAZ recommending that it approves for the four companies to carry out a pilot project at Morton Jaffray after evaluation of the companies is to be prepared.”

However, it would be prudent and faster to commence with the pilot with Nanotech who are ready to start and were compliant, Moyo added.

Despite the recommendation by Moyo, Chisango is said to have gone to cancel the tender, opting for the current chemicals importation regime.

Harare has been in the eye of a storm following the arrest of councillors and senior officials over the illegal sale of land.

In July, acting human resources director, Matthew Marara and principal housing director, Edgar Dzehonye were arrested for allegedly prejudicing council US$1m in the Kuwadzana stands deal.

Housing director Addmore Nhekairo was also arrested for signing offer letters to undeserving people.

Source: Business Times