The Herald (Harare)

22 March 2014

Zimbabwe: The Right Thing Simply Has to Be Done

editorial

The State Procurement Board should investigate and ascertain whether or not the manner in which it has been handling matters has been above board, especially in the wake of reports that it flouted procedures in allowing the Zimbabwe Power Company to award solar project tenders to two losing bidders.

SPB chairman Mr Charles Kuwaza this week conceded that the board had not followed proper -- and lengthy -- procedures on that tender because they feared doing so would have frustrated the country's objectives of reducing power deficits.

While the SPB argument sounds logical, considering the power challenges the country is going through, the right thing still needed to be done.

We cannot be a nation that breaks its laws whenever bureaucrats think they can bend laws and procedures without any real oversight from central Government and law enforcement authorities.

The State Procurement Board is there to ensure that tenders are not corruptly awarded and that Government does not lose money in the process and taxpayers are not fleeced by undeserving companies being awarded projects.

This is precisely what Mr Kuwaza and company should be doing in their offices at the Old Reserve Bank Building so that bidders who meet all the requirements and specifications are awarded the tenders.

By turning a blind eye to doing the right things as expected of them from both a moral and legal perspective, the SPB has put itself under the spotlight and the nation now has serious doubts about its competence to handle the tender business.

There are growing fears that there could be many other such cases that were unprocedurally handled by the State procurement authorities over the years seeing as Mr Kuwaza has been heading this institution throughout the period that Zimbabwe's economy has been facing serious challenges.

Now and again, there have been allegations of companies and individuals being corruptly awarded tenders and the SPB's admission that it breached procedures on the Zimbabwe Power Company solar project makes it difficult for anyone in their right senses to have confidence in the manner it has been doing its business.

Many people now believe that Zimbabwe is fast adopting a culture of tenderprenuership which has seen companies and individuals making a lot of money without expending any sweat simply because they know how to play the tender game.

With people in positions of leadership conspiring to knowingly do the wrong things, it will be extremely difficult to win the fight against corruption.

We have said it again and again that the fight against corruption is in pursuit of the national interest, that flouting of rules and regulations is corruption, and that anyone presiding over an institution that tolerates corruption is fighting the pursuit of the national interest.

It is thus heartening to know that Government has established a Cabinet Committee to monitor the SPB's operations so as to ensure transparency in tender processes.

This is essentially a vote of no confidence in the capability of the SPB to perform the duties it was set up to do, because it now means manpower is being dedicated to monitoring a body that should in all fairness be a monitor in itself.

Government, like every other progressive Zimbabwean, is concerned that there are projects that have remained incomplete because they were awarded to companies that lied in their tender bids and have no capacity to do the things they claimed to be able to -- even after being paid millions of dollars.

It is this non-adherence to procedures that has caused all the problems we are experiencing with a number of national projects countrywide.

This is why in some cases tenders have been awarded to shelf companies that then outsource the project or seek equipment from other firms after having claimed to have the capacity to do the work tendered for.

It is the SPB's mandate to ensure such firms are not awarded tenders and that tenders are awarded to firms that have proven capacity to do the work and that does not have anything to do with whether or not the projects seeks to address national security concerns, the right thing simply has to be done.

It is our hope that the Cabinet Committee will perform its task diligently and ensure transparency in the tender system for the benefit of all patriotic Zimbabweans.

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