By Fidelis Munyoro
A Ruwa house belonging to former Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals pharmacy stores controller Russell Tatenda Mwenye, who is also facing criminal corruption charges after he ordered supplies at inflated prices from a company he was connected with, has been forfeited to the State in a civil action.
The High Court found there was a probable chain of links connecting the purchase of the house to the inflated prices of the successful supplier.
Parirenyatwa Hospital reportedly lost US$500 000 and more than $600 000 after Mwenye allegedly flouted the tender procedures and offered Silksilver Investments (Pvt) Ltd the tender to supply medical sutures on many occasions. He then allegedly used the proceeds generated by these awards to build a house in Mabvazuva, Ruwa.
The house has now been forfeited to the State after the High Court granted an application for civil forfeiture brought by the Prosecutor-General Kumbira Hodzi against Mwenye and his wife Rutendo Vera. The application was made in terms of the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act. In a civil action proof is based on the balance of probabilities, a lower hurdle than the proof beyond reasonable doubt required in a criminal trial.
In granting the order for civil forfeiture, Justice Benjamin Chikowero traced Mwenye’s “hidden hand” starting with the corrupt placement of the order to procure the medical sutures from Silksilver. Mwenye’s link to the company, its decision making structure, control of its finances and the property in question became manifest once Parirenyatwa Hospitals terminated his employment. Justice Chikowero noted that Mwenye’s wife occupied the position of administration officer at Silksilver.
Flancon Investments (Pvt) Ltd had initially won the tender to supply the sutures at a cost of US$37 844 on the basis that it was the cheapest bid that met the tender specifications.
Silksilver Investments (Pvt) Ltd participated in the bidding process and lost so in the lawful course of things, PGHs should have bought the medical sutures from Flancon, which had won the tender, but this was not the case.
For reasons which Justice Chikowero said could only be attributed to corruption, Silksilver, the losing bidder, supplied the sutures at a cost which was more than double what Flancon had charged.
Parirenyatwa Hospitals paid US$86 381 for the sutures and the money was paid into Silksilver’s CABS account.
“This was public money. There exist pieces of legislation governing procurement by public entities and how public funds should be spent. Those statutes were not adhered to,” said Justice Chikowero.
He also also noted in his ruling that after Mwenye was fired after it emerged that he was the managing director of Silksilver and that he and his wife were signatories to the company’s CABS bank account into which US$486 381 was received from Parirenyatwa Hospitals.
“The asset falls within the bracket of property acquired using proceeds of corruption. Considering the quantum of the loss suffered by the public entity, I am not at all persuaded that an order of forfeiture stands disproportionate to the prejudice to be suffered by the respondents (Mwenye and his wife).”
Silksilver allegedly supplied the hospital group on 98 separate occasions and was paid US$477 801 and $621 554 in local currency.
Charges against Mwenye arose in March 2016 when Parirenyatwa Hospitals flighted a tender requesting bids for the supply and delivery of surgical sutures.
After the hospital’s tender committee carried out due processes, it awarded the tender to Flancon Investments (Pvt) Limited, the cheapest of the bidders, who quoted US$37 844.
Order forms were then reportedly raised by the procurement department and forwarded to the pharmacy department for recommendations by Mwenye before they were to be passed to the hospital’s chief pharmacist for approval.
But Mwenye allegedly did not action the papers and waited until surgical sutures stocks went critically low, creating an unnecessary emergency in the process.
Mwenye then assigned Yvonne Mudimu, a section head in the surgical and sundries department, to make a direct purchase of the sutures from Silksilver Investments for US$86 381 without going to tender.
Silksilver Investments had bid for the tender, but failed to meet the specifications required.
Allegations are that Mwenye abused his office by allowing Silksilver Investments to supply the surgical sutures without following tender procedures and prejudiced Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals of US$48 537.
A surgical suture is a medical device used to hold body tissues together after an injury or surgery. The Herald.