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Confusion rocks govt over ‘illegal law’, Nick Mangwana embarrassed

Government spokesperson Nick Mangwana had already gone ahead of himself defending the General Notice 635 of 2023 before President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s office dismissed it as illegal on Wednesday.

There was public outcry on Tuesday when government issued a controversial General Notice 635 of 2023 that aimed at hiding from taxpayers how government buys or disposes construction equipment and materials, biomedical and medical equipment, medicines and drugs (pharmaceuticals), vehicles including ambulances, laboratory equipment, chemicals and accessories, hospitals protective equipment and their repairs or maintenance and machinery.

Through the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act, the government said the move was being done in the name of “national interest”.

Against this background, the public went nuclear accusing the government of wanting to promote corruption through the notice.

In a statement on Wednesday afternoon, Secretary in the President’s Office and Cabinet Misheck Sibanda said President Mnangagwa had been made aware of the General Notice 635 of 2023 and he found it illegal. He declared it a nullity.

“His Excellency the President, Dr ED Mnangagwa, has been made aware of some document gazetted as General Notice 635 of 2023, purporting to place the procurement of certain goods outside public scrutiny, on grounds of “national interest”.

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“Upon further investigations, it has come to light that the so-called Government Gazetted Notice is a nullity, having been published without authorisation, and without the signature of the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, as is the norm.

“While further investigations are underway, Government wishes to advise the public that, on the instruction of His Excellency the President, the document in question has been rescinded as it has no standing at law, in policy and in terms of set Government procedures. It thus should be disregarded,” read the statement.

“Government remains committed as ever to managing a transparent public procurement policy and process, as required by the laws of the country.”

Before this statement was issued, Mangwana, a mouthpiece of the whole government had already misled the public defending the illegal notice.

He said: “The idea is to disentangle purchases of emergency medical supplies or critical equipment repairs from the long drawn procurement process. So the import of the General Notice is not to avoid public accountability but to allow life saving procurement.

“Supposing there is an urgent need for certain theatre sundries, without the “Notice”, it would mean the hospital would need to publish a tender first, and go through the long drawn process putting patient safety and life at risk.

“This “Notice” gives room for direct procurement of such sundries without the need for bureaucratic procurement processes,” Mangwana had said before the embarrassing clarification came for the President’s Office.