BY VENERANDA LANGA
THE Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has raised the red flag over the manner in which the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara) is handling so-called “special projects” where huge sums of money are allocated to non-urgent roads while those hit by disasters are neglected.
This was raised when Zinara chief executive Mathlene Mujokoro and other company executives appeared before the Tendai Biti-led PAC on Monday where they were grilled about how the $71 million allocated for “special projects” was used on “dubious” projects some of which were never completed.
Auditor-General Mildred Chiri’s 2016/17 forensic audit on Zinara exposed the rot at Zinara and the PAC was now in the process of getting answers from the parastatal.
PAC said the AG’s audit report noted that during 2016 Zinara engaged service providers to carry out projects on behalf of local authorities.
However, there was no evidence that some of the projects went through the tender process. Zinara claimed these were “special projects” and, therefore, road authorities were the ones responsible for tendering.
“There are some projects that do not fall under specific road authorities, and some of them we give to the Department of Roads to supervise,” said Zinara acting director for technical services, Wishes Mauwa.
“Some of the projects referred to fall under security cantonment areas where a contractor is screened and these are not done through tender. Most of these tenders are done through the Department of Roads.”
Mujokoro said she will produce documents in a fortnight to show why tenders were not being done on these special projects.
“These special projects were paid a total of $71 million, and in the forensic report you paid directly to contractors in advance. For example, Twalumba was paid in advance for road works in Bindura and Binga, which they never did. You also paid a company called Baddon for works at Kadoma Vehicle Inspection Department in advance, but they did not do the job,” he said.
Biti said it was shocking that the “special projects” were supposed to be meant for emergencies and roads hit by disasters such as Cyclone Eline or Cyclone Idai, but the money was being used on roads that were not even urgent.
Kambuzuma legislator Willias Madzimure said when the committee visited Kadoma Municipality last month; they were shocked to hear that the municipality got some money, purportedly for road works, but they had not requested the money from Zinara.
“They had money deposited in their accounts by Zinara, which they told the committee they were surprised because they did not know where it came from. The whole Kadoma management was there and they told the committee under oath that they were surprised when they got the money,” Madzimure said.
Mauwa said he was shocked that Kadoma Municipality claimed that they did not know about the money because they had come to Zinara in person and requested for the payment.
“You must do away with ‘special projects’ because they are not supported by law and you have no authority to do all those shenanigans. Why continue with this creature of looting funds called special projects? It is better going towards Cyclone Idai.
“Instead of doing roads at disaster prone areas the special projects were doing roads in constituencies like Chegutu West, VID Kadoma and $71 million was disbursed to a few companies. That emergency fund should go to the Department of Civil Protection. According to the audit, special projects are a feeding trough,” Biti charged.
Harare North MP Norman Markham said he was also concerned that in his constituency there was a road that was termed VVIP (very very important project) that was being re-surfaced every year for six years under the special projects when areas in need of road infrastructure were suffering.