By Freeman Razemba and Victor Maphosa
Deputy Health and Child Care Minister Dr John Mangwiro was formally questioned by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) on Tuesday on allegations of applying pressure that was inappropriate, although ultimately unsuccessful, on NatPharm to buy medical supplies from a company in which the Deputy Minister had a personal interest.
The company in the end lost out in a competitive tender to other companies that quoted lower prices, although the process had started with a possible intention for direct purchase without seeking other bids before a competitive tender was floated and adjudicated.
Recently Dr Mangwiro issued a statement denying interfering in the process for the supply of the materials by Young Health Care to 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.
Dr Mangwiro was quoted describing the allegations that he abused office by interfering in NatPharm’s dealings with Young Health Care Limited for the procurement of Covid-19 supplies as malicious, mischievous and calculated to cause alarm, despondency and sensationalise the public.
But Zacc questioned him over the matter on Tuesday when he visited its offices in the company of his two lawyers.
Zacc spokesperson Commissioner John Makamure confirmed the questioning yesterday. “We have called him in for a warned and cautioned statement. The docket is not yet complete and we are still waiting for more vital information,” he said.
Although the details were still sketchy, The Herald understands Dr Mangwiro was questioned following a report recently compiled by Zacc that he allegedly applied what was seen by some as pressure during the tender bidding process for the supply of laboratory equipment, reagents and consumables for Covid-19 to NatPharm.
The initial investigation carried out by Zacc between August 31 and September 4, was triggered by an anonymous letter dated
August 18 to Zacc alleging that NatPharm and the Ministry may not have followed procedures during the procurement. Zacc interviewed Natpharm officials including the acting managing director and officers from National Microbiology Reference Laboratories in connection with the allegations.
“Given the extent to which the deputy minister was involved in the said tender process, indications are that he was acting on 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,” said the memo.
The memo recommended further investigations into the possibility that there had been criminal abuse of office and possible violation of the Public Finance Management Act through giving ministerial directives having financial implications when he allegedly demanded prepayment of undelivered goods to Young Health Care.
The memo states that initially Young Health Care was to supply the required goods under direct procurement, where there is no competitive bidding. Young Health Care quoted $5,6 million, which was coincidentally the same amount that was in the ministry coffers, suggesting that the company might have had inside information.
“When NatPharm insisted on a competitive bidding process, Young Health Care subsequently submitted a bid price of US$3,6 million for the same items. This saw a reduction of 36 percent in the price,” ZACC said.
But there were 22 other bidders coming on board to compete with Young Health Care in the tender floated on August 5 and closed on August 7. The adjudication of the tender was done between August 8 and August 14 with a two-day break in the middle. Young Health Care’s bid was not successful, according to the ZACC probe and other companies supplied the required goods at a lower price.
But Zacc reports that NatPharm considered that they had come under pressure.
“NatPharm acting managing director (Zealous Nyabadza) reported that he received a phone call from the deputy minister instructing him to convene with his adjudication team during odd hours to explain why the tender was not awarded to Young Health Care Limited.” The Herald.