State Procurement Board (SPB) chairperson Charles Kuwaza yesterday defended his board’s awarding of tenders to Chinese firms saying some of their decisions were guided by Cabinet directives and government’s Look East policy.
Kuwaza made the disclosure when he appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Budget, Finance and Investment Promotion chaired by Goromonzi North MP Paddy Zhanda.
MPs quizzed Kuwaza accusing SPB of awarding multi-million dollar tenders to mainly Asian investors without conducting due diligence on those contractors.
“I do not recall any such due diligence in that particular project and there is a Cabinet policy on some of these matters called ‘Look East Policy’ and if the Chinese government offered money to government what we would do is tender within China and there are cases where they say this particular money is coming with a contractor who is a major parastatal in China,” Kuwaza said.
“On the issue of contractors who do not perform, it is just a question of the ability of the Accounting Officer as Permanent Secretary or the CEOs of parastatals to supervise that project, and as far as I am concerned, the contractors were all certified as capable of doing the job by the Ministry of Public Works,” he said.
Kuwaza said the SPB had a policy of awarding 15% jobs to local contractors ahead of foreign firms. Bulawayo South MP Eddie Cross and Tsholotsho South MP Maxwell Dube claimed some contracts awarded to the Chinese, like the Defence College where $100 million was borrowed from China, were liabilities for the people of Zimbabwe and the SPB should have a role in evaluating the contracts.
Responding to Zhanda’s questions on whether the SPB was transparent and on allegations of corruption in the manner tenders were awarded, Kuwaza said it was impossible to open envelopes before the day of closing the tender thus making it impossible that someone might have knowledge of who is going to win the tender before the sealed envelopes were opened.
Kuwaza said the introduction of e-procurement was the way to go in order to lessen bureaucracy in the system.