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Fire Trucks Scandal: no one knows how, when they are going to be procured

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government is yet to reveal to the public the status of the fire engines and trucks procurement which caused controversy last year after Local Government Minister July Moyo was accused of signing the deal with Belarusian companies without following due procedures.

It emerged in 2022 that the government was going to illegally divert more than US$55 million of the devolution funds to buying fire trucks from Belarus for 89 councils in a deal that raises suspicions of irregularities and corruption.

Harare City Council among other local authorities in the country said they were not consulted when the deal was signed by the line Ministry.

Government, however, remained adamant on buying the fire trucks.

One year later, on Wednesday opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) MP Allan Markham asked in Parliament the status of the fire trucks deal.

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“Good afternoon Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, my question is following two issues of the importation. The first one was the importation of fire tenders into this country or supposed importation of fire tenders from Belarus and I do not think that there is anyone in this House who knows how many or how much, when they are going to be paid and when they are going to arrive,” he asked.

The Harare North legislator further asked government to explain thousands of tractors being distributed in his constituency from Belarus again.

“The second one is also from Belarus. There are thousands of tractors in my constituency that are being distributed from Belarus and none of us here know anything about that contract.

“Could the two Hon. Ministers indulge us, either with the contracts or the general concept of borrowing or buying tractors from Belarus with no accountability or transparency to this House?”

Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda urged Markham to put his question in writing next week.

“That is a specific question that requires your written approach and allows the respective ministers to answer accordingly. In terms of procurement, I think that would be in the purview of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development. So, why do you not put it in writing for next week?”

The Ministry of Finance in 2021 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.

Moyo is already under fire from Parliament for disbursing devolution funds without an act of Parliament.