CAAZ boss in court over multi-million-dollar tender scam

BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE

Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) chief executive David Chawota appeared in court yesterday facing criminal abuse of office charges for allegedly flouting tender processes when air traffic control and communication systems were acquired.

Chawota (59), who was represented by Tinofara Kudakwashe Hove, appeared before Harare magistrate Rumbidzai Mugwagwa.

The State alleges that in May 2013, Chawota initiated a tender process for the supply of air traffic control systems.

The tenders were for the supply, delivery and installation of the radar surveillance system, navigation aid system, air traffic control communication systems and air traffic control training simulator.

It is alleged that Indra Sistemas SA PL of Spain was awarded the tender for the supply, delivery and installations of Radar Surveillance systems worth US$19 838 000, while Intelcan Technosystems of Canada was awarded the tender for installing the navigation aid system at a cost of US$3 921 938.

AME ATM was awarded a US$4 305 824 tender to supply the air traffic control communication system, while Canadian Data software Limited was given the air traffic control simulator tender for US$552 150.

The State alleges that one of the bidders challenged the awarding of the tender to Indra Sistemas, resulting in the cancellation of the award by the Supreme Court in January 2016.

It is alleged Chawota implored the CAAZ board to directly engage Indra Sistemas despite a court ruling that a fresh tender be issued.

Eventually the CAAZ board on Mach 1, 2017 resolved not to consider the Indra proposal because of the risks involved in dealing with a company which had failed to meet minimum mandatory requirements which would jeopardise passengers’ safety.

The board instructed Chawota to consult with the Defence ministry, Air Force and Foreign Affairs ministry after the board became cautious about purchasing from Spain on the grounds that it is a member of the European Union, which had trade restrictions with Zimbabwe.

On March 24, 2017, the Foreign Affairs ministry advised that it would not be prudent to consider procuring the equipment from the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Czech Republic, Spain and Finland.

Similarly, the United States and Canada has a ban on the export to Zimbabwe of such equipment.

It is alleged on June 5, 2017 Chawota again without board approval arranged a meeting with officials from Indra at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.

Through the Office of the President and Cabinet, Chawota requested the State Procurement Board to engage Indra, alleging that the company had brought a funding package which CAAZ had been failing to raise and an award was granted.

It is alleged on December 20, 2017 Chawota went to Spain, purportedly for a due diligence, but signed a contract with Indra valued at €27 900 000.

The signed contract had other systems such as navigational aid systems previously awarded to IntelcanTechnosystems of Canada and air traffic control communication systems previously awarded to AME ATM, which had not been cancelled, meaning CAAZ was thereby creating a double award.

The company, however, failed to implement the project for lack of funds and Chawota is now engaging the Africa Export and Import Bank to provide funds.

Zivanai Macharaga appeared for the State.

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