Power utility ZESA Holdings is stuck with controversial businessman Wicknell Chivayo who is now back on site implementing the multi-million-dollar Gwanda solar project, Parliament heard Monday.
Senior executives from ZESA and its subsidiary ZPC as well as government officials appeared before the Parliamentary Committee on Mines and Energy chaired by Norton legislator Temba Mliswa and confirmed that the "convicted criminal is back on site".
ZESA chief executive Joshua Chifamba told the committee that while legal processes have commenced, Chivayo's Intratek company has, for now, started work on the project.
"We can actually show you letters from ZPC and the replies from the contractor. The contractor was never expelled from site but just did not show up," said Chifamba.
"Thanks to the noise that has been made, the contractor now realises that there is so much oversight. He (Chivayo) is going back to work to compensate for the money we already paid. It does not however, whitewash his sins.
"Today (Monday) is important because we have followed procedure and the contract has run its course and we have decided to cancel (it)."
Chifamba could not however answer when Mliswa and members of the legislative committee demanded to know what the parastatal was doing engaging a "criminal" since information emerged that Chivayo does not qualify to be a company director because of a previous conviction.
Mliswa flipped when energy permanent secretary Patson Mbiriri told the committee Chivayo was back on site clearing the site as part of efforts to off-set the $5 million upfront payment that triggered public anger.
Giving public funds to ex-convict
"This is time to call the President (Emmerson Mnangagwa) to come before this committee because it is absurd and shocking that we are in a new dispensation that is telling the world that the country is open for business when corruption has actually gone into the overdrive and Zimbabwe is open for criminals," said Mliswa.
The Norton MP added: "This is tax payers' money and with impunity you guys are calm about entrusting public funds in the hands of an ex-convict. Who is paying you to do that? Was that a cabinet decision?
"We are shocked because we have never heard anything like this in Parliament. Has the State been captured by criminals?"
Mbiriri also told the committee that constant ministerial changes had negatively affected the operations at ZESA.
"The ministry of energy has had a political leadership that has a bearing on the policies," he said.
"In the GNU there was one minister who had his own political motives and in 2013-2014 came other internal changes; and now recently we have had another (minister).
"This transition also meant changes in policy direction and focus. Someone with different views will come in; they will be out to prove a point and every tender policy came under scrutiny.
"So, decisions are necessarily made by the accounting officer."
Mbiriri said Chivayo had been allowed back on site because his contract was yet to be cancelled.
However, Mliswa gave the example of government's decision to cancel the Beitbridge-Harare highway project as an example of how non-performance could be used as a pretext to walk away from a contract.