PROCUREMENT contracts with a combined value of about $8,7 million were re-tendered or extended after winning companies either disappeared or failed to complete works, a massive tender scandal that has been unearthed at Bulawayo City Council shows.
Investigations also reveal that defaulting companies were working in cahoots with senior council officials who play both tender adjudication and supervisory roles, creating fertile ground for collusion and manipulation in the bidding process.
According to documents at hand, tenders worth US$8 749 914,52 had serious irregularities and had to be either extended or re-tendered altogether, resulting in them exceeding the contract price.
The latest exposés come after it emerged that the local authority recently awarded a tender for the rehabilitation of filter beds and clarifiers to Tzircalle Brothers despite the same tender having been initially awarded to Consolidated Engineers and Merchants (CEM), a company which failed to complete the job after “disappearing” from site.
Although CEM won the job for a total cost of $4,5 million, the same works are now being projected to cost not more than $2,5 million.
“CEM were paid this money but did little or mediocre work necessitating the council to re-tender the works four years later in order to ensure clean and pure water is supplied to Bulawayo. The net effect of this mediocre job is that for the last five years Bulawayo water remained brownish despite the investment by BOWSER (Bulawayo Water and Sanitation Emergency Response project).
“The tender has been won this year by Tzircalle Brothers who have offered to re-do the works for only $100 000 (labour), council will provide materials at a cost no more than $300 000. This is a third of the price of CEM four years ago. The issue is said to be parked at council’s legal section with little urgency in recovering these public funds as CEM vanished,” reads a confidential council document leaked to Sunday News.
According to council sources, CEM won the $4,5 million tender funded by the Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe (IDBZ) for the rehabilitation of the systems at Ncema Waterworks Plant in 2011.
The company, however, failed to complete the project and BCC entered into a partnership with Australian Agency for International Development (Ausaid) and World Vision Australia (WVA) to rehabilitate the same water reticulation system under the Bowser programme.
“The company closed and failed to complete most of the projects which it was supposed to do. We understand the company belongs to a Mr Simon Ngwenya who is based in South Africa.
“Ironically, at the moment a new company Tzircalle Brothers, is doing the same project which is now being bankrolled by the city council to the tune of $2 500 000 in total. The council is also reportedly considering re-tendering some of the projects which CEM failed to complete,” said the source.
In one of the disputed tenders at Criterion Waterworks, the local authority initially awarded a tender for the rehabilitation of plant two to Hydroprojects (tender number C32/2010) but the contractor had only done the eastern side of the plant and failed to complete the western side, under unclear circumstances.
Other tenders which had gross irregularities include the servicing of 391 medium-density stands at Emhlangeni, servicing of 303 medium-density stands in Mahatshula North, 700 high-density stands in Pumula South Phase 3, the rehabilitation of dilapidated major collector roads in high-density suburbs, the development of 52 town houses in Selborne Brooke, the replacement of electro-mechanical equipment and the purchase of road construction equipment.
One of the irregular tenders, the servicing of 700 high-density stands in Pumula South Phase 3, almost claimed the scalp of a council engineer who refused to write a report to the State Procurement Board in support of time extension for the project.
“Unfortunately, due to his belief in ethics and principle this engineer was charged and victimised for refusing to write a report to the State Procurement Board supporting the contractor’s application for time extension,” a well-placed council source revealed.
Contacted for comment, BCC senior public relations officer, Mrs Nesisa Mpofu, confirmed the failure by some contractors to complete their jobs but claimed that the decision to re-tender the contracts was above board.
“Tender number C32/2010 was for the rehabilitation of Criterion Wate Works for Plant Two. The contractor had been awarded the tender for plant two for which they only managed to do the eastern side of the plant and not the western side.
“At Ncema Water Works — the rehabilitation of filters and clarifiers were not completed under the Bulawayo Water and Sanitation Emergency Response project (Bowser) project by the contractor CEM (Civil Engineers and Merchants), due to the incomplete works the contract was cancelled. The new tender awarded to Tzircalle is for the completion of outstanding works at Ncema,” said Mrs Mpofu.
State Procurement Board chairperson Mr Charles Kuwaza said councils were fully aware of how they should handle tenders and if there were any flaws in the process they could face prosecution.
“We sent circulars to the local authorities specifying on how these tenders should be handled. I should therefore warn them that if there is any irregularity they risk prosecution,” said Mr Kuwaza.
Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Saviour Kasukuwere also weighed in on the matter, saying one of his first assignments in the ministry would be to weed out corruption especially with regards to the handling of tenders.
“I know that most of these councils are being run corruptly. There is a lot of underhand dealings taking place. Well, they must be warned that they should immediately put their house in order because this is one of my first assignments in the ministry, that is weeding out any corrupt elements,” said Minister Kasukuwere.
Councillors who spoke on condition of anonymity said all the chaos was being caused by the fact that the councillors were now powerless in the handling of tenders after Government transferred this responsibility to the State Procurement Board, with smaller tenders now being handled by a special committee made up of council employees.
“This is something which has been happening for a number of years, actually ever since councillors were stripped of powers to handle tenders. We have tried on a number of occasions to question the process but most of the time they confuse us with the technical jargon,” said one councillor.
In 2012 Government barred all local authorities from handling tenders after a number of scandals that caught the councils offside, with council officials and councillors implicated in gross underhand dealings to influence the outcome of bids.
The directive saw the disbandment of municipal procurement boards and the formation of procurement committees mainly made up of council officials and led by the town clerks or chief executive officers to manage smaller procurements. by Vusumuzi Dube and Lungile TshumaSource: sundaynews