Minister denies abuse of office charges
By Mukudzei Chingwere
Health and Child Care Deputy Minister Dr John Mangwiro has denied interfering in the bidding process for the supply of Covid-19 related materials by Young Health Care to the National Pharmaceutical Company (Natpharm) saying he only convened a meeting at night in August this year to establish what was causing delays at a time when infections were surging.
In a statement released yesterday, Dr Mangwiro described allegations that he abused office in the awarding of a contract to Young Health Care Limited for the procurement of Covid-19 supplies as malicious, mischievous and calculated to cause alarm, despondency and sensationalise the public.
“It is not correct that I interfered with the bidding process. On August 14 2020 at around 2100 hours I received a phone call from the Hon Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care. He wanted me to get an update on what was causing the delays to the procurement of the Covid-19 requirements.
“I could not sleep over an emergency and as such I called (acting Natpharm managing director) Mr Zealous Nyabadza to urgently convene a meeting to appraise me on what was causing the delays.
“I attended the meeting on August 14 2020 in the company of MoHCC legal advisor Ms S Chikati. The adjudication process had already been completed on August 13 2020. I did not attend the meeting to review any tender processes as this had already been completed.
“I informed the meeting that I wanted to get an update on the availability of the PCR Machine and PCR Test kits arising out of the bids. Mr Z Nyabadza explained that Young Health Care Limited had won the tender to supply some of the equipment,” said Dr Mangwiro.
The Deputy Minister’s statement comes as the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) is investigating claims by a whistle-blower that he had personal interest in the awarding of a tender to Young Health Care and tried to arm-twist workers at Natpharm to award the tender without following due process.
Dr Mangwiro said his ministry did not give orders to Natpharm in the procurement processes, and that their intervention was to push for the expeditious delivery of the equipment since it was a health emergency.
“It is not correct that the MoHCC gave numerous directives to Natpharm Management to make a direct procurement of supplies from Young Health Care Limited which resulted in the delay of the procurement.
“The correct position is that by the letter dated 15 July 2020, the acting Secretary for Health and Child Care (Dr Gibson Mhlanga) wrote to Natpharm requesting purchase of Covid-19 PCR test reagents on urgent basis from Young Health Care Limited.
“The request was justified on two grounds. Firstly, the urgency was necessitated by a need to facilitate implementation of national testing strategy since the country was experiencing a sharp spike of Covid-19 cases and was unable to meet demand.
“Secondly, the Ministry wanted to mitigate the exorbitant freight charges by utilising the Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care chartered plane. The plane was in China and coming back to Zimbabwe at no additional cost.”
Citing Section 33(1) of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act (PPDPA), Dr Mangwiro said the law does not prohibit a procuring entity to conduct direct procurement in cases of extreme urgency and those unforeseen by the procuring entity or where procurement requirement cannot be obtained in time in accordance to competitive bidding.
“I deny the allegation that I delayed the procurement.
“I wish to state that the delay was attributed to the conduct of the acting managing director for Natpharm Mr Nyabadza. By letter dated 21st July 2020 Mr Nyabadza clandestinely wrote to PRAZ (Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe) requesting that the tender be treated as a competitive international tender instead of a direct procurement
“Mr. Nyabadza did not communicate with the Permanent Secretary that Natpharm had opted to procure the equipment using a competitive procurement method instead of conducting a direct procurement method.
“The thinking of the Ministry was that Natpharm would apply for the authorisation from PRAZ for a direct procurement as requested by the Ministry, in line with Section 15(1) of the PPDPA Act. This is because from prior communication with Mr Nyabadza, he did not object to the Ministry’s request for a direct procurement from Young Health Care Limited,” he said.
On allegations that he usurped powers of the then Permanent Secretary of the Health Ministry Dr Mhlanga, the Deputy Minister said he only got involved because the accounting officer was not available during the emergency.
“The Permanent Secretary should have accompanied me to the meeting but he was engaged on other assignments. The Permanent Secretary was fully aware of the intended meeting since I had briefed him.”
Dr Mangwiro denied allegations that he ordered a prepayment to Young Health company saying it was the vice chairman of the Ad-Hoc Inter-Ministerial Taskforce on Covid-19, Professor Amon Murwira when he was acting Health Minister, who directed the payment of delivered items.
“I deny the allegation that I directed Natpharm to make a prepayment to Young Health Care Limited for the undelivered supplies contrary to the terms and conditions of the contract signed between Natpharm and Young Health Care Limited.
“The correct position is that Hon Prof Amon Murwira specifically stated that the payment should be for the items delivered, of which US$127 000 was to be paid out of the US$922 000 stipulated in the contract.
“The directive was given in the presence of the Permanent Secretary for Health and Child Care, Mr Z Nyabadza and myself, and was done in the office of Hon Murwira.” The Herald