Fire tender scandal: Councils accuse Minister of lying to Parliament
Harare Mayor Jacob Mafume has accused Deputy Local Government Minister Marian Chombo of misrepresenting facts before the National Assembly claiming councils requested for fire tenders that were set to chew more than US$55 million of devolution funds.
Government indicated that it will be diverting part of the devolution funds to buying fire trucks from Belarus for 89 councils in a deal that raises suspicions of irregularities and corruption.
Local Government Minister July Moyo entered into the deal with President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Belarusian crony Alexander Zingman, who runs Aftrade DMCC, allegedly without going to tender.
Each fire tender is purchased at a value of US$464 296, translating to US$55 million for 89 local authorities specified. Research has since established that the prices were inflated in a great deal of corruption controversy.
Last week, Chombo brought a dubious ministerial statement claiming councils are the ones that requested for the fire trucks.
“The ministry would like to advise that adequate consultations were made with various stakeholders, including local authorities and the Chief Fire Officers Forum of Zimbabwe (CFOFZ),” she said.
“They submitted specifications that suited local environments which were forwarded to potential suppliers in Belarus.
“The CFOFZ approved the models which they believed best suited their operations as they are fitted with the requisite technology.”
In an interview with Nehanda Radio, Mayor Mafume dismissed Chombo’s sentiments stating that the deal was being orchestrated without their approval.
“What Chombo is saying is not true. There is no council that passed a resolution to procure fire tenders from Belarus,” he said.
“There was no public procurement process that was done at council as we ought to do. The devolution funds are supposed to come to the council and the council will sit in full council and consult the residents on priority projects.
“The priority projects for the council is to improve water supply. To improve the issues around the road network, refuse collection and buying of equipment.
“We never requested for the procurement of those fire tenders. And certainly we would not have requested to procure them at that cost. That’s why there is tendering so that the things can be obtained at a reasonable cost.
“An act should be enacted by Parliament which will deal with the procedures on how the devolution funds are used and prioritized. At the present moment, we have one Minister deciding for all councils like a super mayor on how they use their devolution funds, entering into contracts without following any procedure.”
Bulawayo City corporate communications manager Nesisa Mpofu was yet to respond Nehanda Radio published this article.
The Treasury last year doubled the financial allocation towards the devolution programme, setting aside ZWL42,5 billion (US$388 888 889 according to the official rate of the time) for 2022, up from ZWL19,5 billion that was set aside for 2021.
But Local Government Minister July Moyo is already under fire from Parliament for disbursing devolution funds without an act of Parliament.