By Brian Chitemba
Health and Child Care Deputy Minister Dr John Mangwiro allegedly railroaded the National Pharmaceutical Company (NatPharm), in dramatic events, including visiting the parastatal’s workers at night and threatening them with dismissal, to award a US$5,6 million contract to an “undeserving company” — Young Health Care.
This is contained in a Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (zacc) report which says the Deputy Minister had “personal interest” in the matter.
The investigation, conducted from August 31 to September 4 this year, looked into circumstances of how the Ministry of Health and Child Care handled a Covid-19 tender (NAT ITCB FWWK 04/2020) for the purchase of laboratory equipment, reagents and consumables.
The Sunday Mail recently reported that senior Government officials were allegedly caught with hands in the till over the Covid-19 materials procurement.
The alleged scandal was unearthed following a whistleblower’s tip-off in August.
Reached for comment, Dr Mangwiro said: “Sorry, I cant talk right now”, in a terse SMS response, after his phone went unanswered.
According to the report, the commission recommended a further probe to check if the Deputy Minister criminally abused his office; possible violation of the Public Finance Management Act and Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets.
The suspected violations stem from allegations against the Deputy Minister that he ordered NatPharm to give Young Health Care a tender and advance payments before delivery of goods.
Dr Mangwiro, the zacc report says, usurped the duties of the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary through issuing countless directives to NatPharm.
Young Health Care, it emerged, was given a contract through a directive from then acting Permanent Secretary Dr Gibson Mhlanga, at a time when it was not even registered with the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Praz) as required by law.
NatPharm acting managing director, Mr Zealous Nyabadza resisted the alleged unlawful act by Ministry of Health and Child Care officials resulting in a public tendering process which was delayed to allow Young Health Care to register with Praz.
In part, the zacc report reads: “Initial quotation by Young Health Care for supply of commodities under direct procurement, where prices quoted by Young Heath Care Limited were exorbitant amounted to USD$5 600 000, which was coincidentally the same amount that was in the Ministry coffers, suggesting that the company had inside information.
“When NatPharm insisted on competitive bidding, Young Health Care Limited subsequently submitted a bid price of USD$3 600 000 for the same items. This saw a reduction of 36 percent in the price.”
The public tender was then done on August 7, 2020, with 22 companies competing for the contract.
ZACC said Dr Mangwiro allegedly side-stepped and cajoled NatPharm top managers, at odd hours, to award the tender to Young Health Care before threatening the parastatal’s workers with dismissal if they acted otherwise.
“The Deputy Minister also demanded that a purchase order be issued that same night.
“The adjudication team was picked from their homes around 2200 hours and were interrogated by the Deputy Minister until the early hours of the following day. The Deputy Minister threatened the team with dismissal for failing to award Young Health Care the contracts,” reads the zacc report.
Young Health Care was then awarded a contract to supply goods worth US$124 630 instead of US$922 000 that had been demanded as advance payment.
The Zacc report says, “Young Health Care Limited managed to deliver a paltry 6 percent of Nucleic Acid and another 6 percent of Transport Media but went on to request pre-payment for the awarded contract, including undelivered supplies contrary to the terms and conditions of the contract signed with Natpharm, which stipulates that payment should be made seven days after delivery (post-payment).
“The Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr Mangwiro, reportedly insisted on pre-payment and tasked the technical team from laboratory and Natpharm procurement to visit Young Health Care Limited in their country office and verify available stock to compel Natpharm to make a pre-payment to Young Health Care Limited.”
This had a negative impact on the tendering process as the technical adjudication team did not carry out verification of supplies.
“Given the extent to which the Deputy Minister was involved in the said tender process, indications are that he was acting in his own capacity and not on behalf of the ministry.
“The actions of the Deputy Minister signal a personal interest in the tender and this should have prompted him to declare his interest,” the report said.
The tender was later cancelled due to the irregularities and will now be re-floated to allow deserving companies to supplies the much needed laboratory equipment, reagents and consumables for Covid-19.
Former Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo was fired over his involvement in a US$60 million Covid-19 procurement scandal. Sunday Mail