Maputo — The Mozambican Attorney-General's Office (PGR) has ordered an investigation into the circumstances of the purchase of the Zambezi Hotel, in the central city of Quelimane, by the Zambezia Provincial Health Directorate, reports Wednesday's issue of the independent newssheet “Mediafax”.
It is suspected that senior officials in the directorate, in collaboration with the owners of the hotel, designed a scheme to steal money from the state coffers by exaggerating the real value of the hotel.
The official value of the hotel was fixed at 281 million meticais (4.6 million US dollars, at current exchange rates), but the PGR suspects this greatly overvalues the building.
The Provincial Health Directorate justifies the purchase on the grounds that there is a desperate shortage of housing for health workers in Zambezia, and it would use the hotel to accommodate them.
But after hearing complaints and protests from individuals and from businesses, notably from the Zambezia Association of Contractors, the PGR decided to launch a formal investigation. The case has been entrusted to investigators from the Central Office for the Fight against Corruption (GCCC).
Faced with the suspicions of a corrupt deal, the Zambezia Provincial Health Director, Hidayat Kassim, challenged the bodies charged with the administration of justice to push ahead with an investigation, since he was sure it would prove that the purchase, agreed in 2016, was entirely above board, and has been undertaken responsibly in order to solve a real problem facing the Zambezia health sector.
The Zambezi Hotel, built over 50 years ago, has 24 rooms, and is one of the oldest hotels in Quelimane.
In 2016, the same year in which the hotel purchase was sealed, the Zambezia provincial government laid the first stone for the construction of a residential building and auditorium for the health directorate - a building that, with 34 rooms to accommodate doctors, would make purchase of the hotel superfluous. However, construction is at a standstill, because the provincial government has no money to proceed.
Meanwhile, in the southern city of Inhambane, the local mayor, Benedito Guimino, goes on trial on Wednesday, charged with maladministration and abuse of power.
According to Tacia Simoes, director of the Inhambane branch of the GCCC, Guimino and a municipal official, Issufo Medina, are accused of favouritism in awarding building contracts worth 6.3 million meticais. Of this sum, 3.5 million meticais were used to buy a mechanical shovel, and the rest to build classrooms.