MPs grill bemused Nieeb CEO

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THE Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Youth and Indigenisation yesterday heard how tender laws were allegedly broken to award a multi-million dollar consultancy deal to Brainworks Capital.

BY RICHARD CHIDZA

The revelations piled more pressure on Environment, Water and Climate minister Saviour Kasukuwere to explain why this happened as he was the minister in charge at the time.

Kasukuwere was the Minister of Indigenisation when Brainworks Capital was contracted by the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board (Nieeb) to value transactions relating to the possible transfer of shares to locals without following laid-down tender procedures.

Nieeb chief executive officer Wilson Gwatiringa was yesterday grilled by the committee chaired by Gokwe-Nembudziya legislator Justice Mayor Wadyajena.

“Two weeks ago we were told by Brainworks officials that they did not go through the tender process, can you tell us if this is true?

“Did Brainworks go through the tender process? Yes or no?” Wadyajena asked, adding that the law had been broken.

“No,” came the answer from Gwatiringa, visibly rattled by Wadyajena’s opening comments regarding the absence of the ministry’s permanent secretary George Magosvongwe whom he accused of deliberately “finding excuses every time we summon him”.

President Robert Mugabe last year roasted Kasukuwere over the “messy Zimplats deal”.

Wadyajena asked Gwatiringa whether he was inferring that Mugabe was wrong in describing the transaction as “not good for the country”.

“I . . . eh…Mr Chairman I am not in a position to say, but I was just saying in the circumstances it was a good deal for the country,” he responded.

In his presentation to the committee, Gwatiringa had told Wadyajena that Nieeb engaged a number of firms in 2011 through a tender process to render financial advisory services in transactions that required expertise.

He said the board on May 14 2012, met Brainworks Capital chief executive officer George Manyere at the parent ministry and discussed their ability to render valuations and financial advisory services.

Asked by Zanu PF Midlands lawmaker Melody Dziva how Nieeb had come to know of Brainworks, Gwatiringa appeared frozen.

“We met them at our parent ministry and discussed their presentations that they had regarding the work they had previously done,” Gwatiringa said.

But Wadyajena would have none of it and cut in: “The question is how did you get to know about Brainworks? Who introduced you to Brainworks?”

To which Gwatiringa stammered: “When we got to the meeting there was Godfrey Sigobodhla (a late former indigenisation director in the ministry).”

At that point Wadyajena abruptly ended the hearing and thanked the Nieeb officials for their contributions.

He said he had been convinced that Brainworks had been “head-hunted by Nieeb without going to tender against the dictates of the law”.

Reports indicate that government stood to lose over $100 million had the deal went through.

But according to Gwatiringa, Zimplats refused to transfer the 51% shareholding as required without financial gain.

Kasukuwere was grilled by MPs in 2013 over the “Nieebgate scandal” amid reports that relevant government departments including the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, the Attorney-General’s office as well as Cabinet had not been consulted.