28 March 2014

Zimbabwe: Nkomo Statue Torches Storm

Circumstances surrounding awarding of a tender for the late Vice President Dr Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo's statue torched a storm yesterday with MPs accusing the Home Affairs Ministry of flouting tender procedures.

It emerged during a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee meeting on Education, Sport, Arts and Culture that the State Procurement Board had awarded the tender to local sculptor Mr David Mutasa of the Art Village, but the Home Affairs Ministry unilaterally awarded it to a North Korean firm.

National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe executive director Dr Godfrey Mahachi told the committee that only Mr Mutasa and a North Korean firm responded to the tender advert.

He said after conducting due diligence of the two applicants, the Ministry of Home Affairs wanted to award Mr Mutasa the tenders for Mutare and Masvingo statues, while the Korean firm would do those for Harare and Bulawayo.

Dr Mahachi said the State Procurement Board awarded the tender for all the four statutes to Mr Mutasa at a cost of Z$ 18 billion.

"We then went into contract with David Mutasa for him to produce one statue at a cost of Z$16 billion. We immediately advanced him 50 percent of the contract price for purposes of purchasing material so that he could make sure all the materials required to fabricate the statue from the very initial stages to bronze casting is done," said Dr Mahachi.

He said Mr Mutasa produced a plastered statue before changing the price for bronze casting to about US$200 000 in addition to the 50 percent down payment, arguing the six-months time-frame had lapsed.

Dr Mahachi said the Ministry of Home Affairs then decided to engage the Korean firm after it charged about US$230 000 for the whole job.

The firm was then awarded the tender that saw them producing the statue that was unveiled by President Mugabe in Bulawayo at Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Street (former Main Street) and 8th Avenue.

Dr Mahachi had earlier said his department was not competent to comment on the processes that led to the awarding of tenders while also requesting the evidence be held in camera.

Buhera West MP Cde Oliver Mandipaka (Zanu-PF), who chaired the committee, turned down the request.

Substantive chairperson Cde Themba Mliswa recused himself saying Mr Mutasa was his uncle.

Legislators then accused the authorities of flouting tender procedures willy-nilly.

Cde Mliswa said authorities colluded to breach procurement procedures by unilaterally terminating the contract with Mr Mutasa without consulting him or the SPB.

"They made a decision to make a decision to award the tender to the Koreans without going back to the procurement board to say 'this person you have awarded the tender to has failed'," said Cde Mliswa.

"This is where the element of corruption comes in. Why would the State or whoever it is in power ... whether it's a Minister... that procurement board is something that they know about and they have to follow.

"You certainly went against the State Procurement Board and gave somebody and why did you not follow the State Procurement Board procedures?"

He said instead of supporting indigenous Zimbabweans, authorities were comfortable exporting jobs to foreigners when they did not consider the inflation rate at the time.

MDC-T legislator for Bulawayo Ms Nicola Watson queried why the Government did not consider paying the cost of bronze casting a statue done by a local person.

Her Harare counterpart, Ms Evelyn Masaiti (MDC-T), said it would have made sense for Government to negotiate with Mr Mutasa than giving the tender to a foreigner when they had already incurred costs.

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