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Alleged USD$3,5m ZETDC meter fraud haunts Farai Jere

By Nyore Madzianike

Businessman Farai Jere’s company, Helcraw Electrical Private Limited, will be jointly charged along with its owner and two Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) engineers, Leonard Chisina and Freeman Kuziva Chikonzo, on allegations of defrauding the power utility of US$3 566 878 in a botched supply of smart meters and accessories deal.

Caps United boss Farai Jere
Caps United boss Farai Jere

Helcraw Electrical, which is being represented by Jere, yesterday appeared at the Harare magistrates court charged with fraud.

Harare regional magistrate Mr Stanford Mambanje remanded the firm to April 21 when the trial is expected to kick-off on a four-day continuous roll.

The State led Mrs Netsai Mushayabasa alleges that sometime in 2016, Jere won a tender to supply 1 151 smart meters to ZETDC.

According to the State, key elements of the contract required that the factory acceptance test (FAT) be done at the factory where they are manufactured and that Helcraw Electrical was also to cater for flights, food and accommodation for the delegation.

The court heard that the meter specifications were 5amps base current and 120amps maximum current and head end system was to be a two-way wireless system. It is alleged that Jere misrepresented to ZETDC that Secure Meters (Pvt) Ltd had a manufacturing plant for smart meters and had a head end system in the United Kingdom, yet there was none.

On November 24, 2018 three engineers Julius Mapipi, Tshuma and Chisina all from ZETDC and Freeman Chikonzo went with Jere to the UK to carry out the FAT.

While in the UK, Jere took the engineers to a warehouse with smart meters and not a factory, it is alleged and as a result the required standards were not met.

Further accusations are that on the meter specifications, the engineers tested a base of 10 amps and maximum current of 120 amps. It is claimed that the meters were tested while connected to a laptop and again the tests on the head end system failed.

Jere allegedly produced a fake FAT report to the effect that the meters met the required standards by ZETDC and he asked the four engineers to sign the false FAT report.

Engineers Chisina and Chikonzo signed the false FAT report while engineers Mapipi and Tshuma expressed reservations as no test had been done, a court heard.

The State alleges that Jere asked Chisina to talk to the two other engineers after they initially refused to sign and later did so under duress.

He also alleges that Jere then made a shipment of 1 151 smart meters, which were delivered to ZETDC and it paid US$3 566 878.02. Further allegations are that upon return into the country engineers Mapipi and Tshuma were removed from the project by Chisina.

ZETDC management allegedly requested all the engineers to complete a questionnaire on the test visit and Chisina and Chikonzo allegedly indicated that the test met the standards required while the other two indicated that there was no factory as specified in the contract, but a warehouse.

In January this year ZETDC ordered an investigation and it was discovered that no FAT was done and resolved to remove all the meters supplied by Jere from their system resulting in the loss of US$3 566 878,02. The Herald