Privatise Noczim

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Zimbabwe is still a black hole of corruption despite all manner of promises to deal with the scourge and the setting up of institutions purportedly to expose and investigate graft.

A lot of what has been masked as serious inefficiencies in the public sector is actually crafted means to make money through underhand deals.

We reported yesterday the admission by Energy and Power Development permanent secretary Justin Mupamhanga before a parliamentary portfolio committee that the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe (Noczim) had contracted a South African company called Noah to supply fuel worth $4,4 million. Noah has failed to deliver the commodity.

The deal between the ministry and Noah was entered at a time when the country had run dry at the beginning of the year. Mupamhanga’s evidence before the committee is staggering.

“We were in a desperate state and I want to admit that we bleeped, but what indeed needs to be done is to ask them to deliver or give us back the money,” he told the committee. Justin, this is the sort of sloppiness that provides corruption with a conducive breeding ground.

There is no justification whatsoever for such huge amounts of money to be committed to a supply deal involving a company whose credentials are not known. That the country was desperate to import diesel is not an excuse at all.

The desperate situation in the country should have called for careful planning and diligence on the part of government in the procurement of fuel.

It is embarrassing to hear Mupamhanga talk of this ministerial blunder and admitting to “misreading” the situation.

The committee hearing the matter did not reveal whether proper tendering for the supply of fuel had been carried out or whether proper due diligence was done on Noah.

We do not want to believe that these critical processes took place prior to the contracting process which is why Noczim has always been in intensive care.

The company has been plagued by deep-seated corruption which has thrived in the absence of clear policy guidelines for the procurement of fuel.

Recently it was reported that the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) had garnished $35 million from Noczim which could not account for the money due to the taxpayer.

The big hole in the Noczim books is not a new phenomenon but a long-standing position that dates back to the formative years of the company.

At the end of 1998, Noczim’s losses were reportedly US$145 million which was attributed mainly to corruption and mismanagement.

By the end of 1999, debt was six times this figure and the parastatal was unable to service its debts.

Motorists have been financing the Noczim liabilities through a debt amortisation levy factored in the forecourt prices of various petroleum products.

Even this money is not being accounted for properly hence the garnish by Zimra last year.

We cannot as a country continue to finance corruption at Noczim.

The company has become a big burden to this economy.

It is serving no purpose at all in an economy where the private sector, given the right fuel tax regime, has demonstrated its capability to supply the market.

Noczim must be privatised to save the country from further pain.

In the meantime all efforts must be made to recover taxpayers’ money from Noah. In fact, when are we going to see someone being charged for this abuse of public office? Responses under Noah’s ark.

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