FINANCE Minister Mthuli Ncube yesterday absolved himself from the murky procurement of Zupco buses and supply of COVID-19 protective equipment by companies whose owners are linked to President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Ncube yesterday told Parliament that procurement was done by line ministries, throwing Health and Local Government ministers, Obadiah Moyo and July Moyo under the bus.
He was appearing before the Felix Mhona-chaired Budget and Finance Portfolio Committee to speak on COVID-19 disbursements and was accompanied by permanent secretary in his ministry, George Guvamatanga.
Asked by Mhona about the procurement of 162 buses by Landela Investments, a company owned by Mnangagwa’s ally, Kudakwashe Tagwirei, and the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) by Drax International, whose representative in the country — Delish Nguwaya — is also linked to the
President, Ncube washed his hands and said line ministries were answerable.
“Treasury is not responsible for procurement, it is government departments and ministries that run procurement processes with the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe and there are rules to be followed and our job as Treasury is to avail what needs to be paid,” Ncube said.
“Of course, we do check if the processes have been followed, but we do not spend a lot of time digging into who is who, and that process also applies to the Zupco buses.”
Guvamatanga added: “Treasury does not procure on behalf of any ministry. We do not have the expertise to know if the buses to be purchased are the right buses and we leave it to the technical people.
“It is the same with medical supplies, we leave it to the Ministry of Health. There is no way as Treasury we can do the due process of checking as done by parent ministries.”
Last week, our sister paper Zimbabwe Independent reported that Tagwirei was raking in millions through a Zupco deal, where he procured 162 buses from China and sold them to government at inflated prices.
A leaked letter by Moyo to Guvamatanga revealed that government approved $863,2 million (US$34,4 million at the official exchange rate of 1:25 to the US$) to be paid to Tagwirei, who is now selling the buses at US$212 962 each when they cost US$58 900 in China.
In another exposé, Drax International, a company fronted by controversial Nguwaya and allegedly linked to Mnangagwa’s son, also got a US$1 million government tender to procure COVID-19 protective clothing, but was selling PPE like N95 face masks that normally cost US$5 each at inflated prices of US$28.
Guvamatanga said his ministry was currently engaging the Public Service Commission over salaries of civil servants, which have been eroded by inflation.
Ncube said Zimbabwe’s economic growth would be impacted negatively by the COVID-19, especially tourism and diaspora remittances, where the country used to receive US$1 billion per year.
“As of May 31, Treasury made $1,3 billion budget releases and $1,1 billion actual disbursements to support COVID-19,” he said.
Ncube revealed that the Health ministry got $640,2 million from the $1,3 billion fund that was also distributed to the President’s Office and Social Welfare ministry, among other government ministries.
He also disclosed that government received US$184,35 million from development partners which included the European Union, the United States, Global Fund, World Bank, United Nations and China, among others.
He said domestic donations amounted to $1 billion, with $500 million mobilised through Treasury Bills and the other $500 million would be targeted from insurance and pension funds.