Parly takes swipe at Zinara ‘vulture’ contracts

BY VENERANDA LANGA

THE Tendai Biti-chaired Public Accounts Committee (PAC) yesterday described several contracts entered between Univern and Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara) as a clear example of State capture.

Auditor-General Mildred Chiri, in a 2016 forensic audit, revealed that Univern would receive $633 million in 10 years for supplying a vehicle licencing software to Zinara.

This came out when Univern directors, among them Sage Levy, Philemon Mushosho and Jason Smith, appeared before the PAC to answer to issues raised by the audit.

The report revealed that Univern had entered into several contracts with Zinara without going to tender, milked the parastatal by overcharging and even supplied $3 million worth of stationery to the parastatal.

The committee threatened to charge the team with contempt of Parliament for refusing to answer questions on whether they were awarded the projects after tender processes as well as to give figures of their investments and how much per year they were getting from Zinara for the contracts. Some of the numerous contracts in question included providing Zinara with software on vehicle licencing and tollgate contracts, where Univern takes 18,5%, which was signed and agreed on in October 2012.

Another contract was entered into in 2012, where Univern pockets 17,5% gross on transit fees and fuel levies on tollgates. The company also got an $8 million contract on snow graders and was reportedly getting road access levy and radio licence levies, including stationery supplied at $3 million.

“These are vulture-contracts and are unconscionable; this is State capture and very corrupt in a country where people lack drugs and clean water,” Biti said.

“What is the justification for being paid US$33 million from 2012 to 2016 for vehicle software? Mr Levy, you are raping the country, and is there anywhere in the world where there is precedent for such contracts?”

The committee’s calculations were that in 10 years, Univern will get $633 million for the vehicle licensing software from Zinara and that in a year, they get paid approximately $120 million for their services to Zinara.

“We believe our contracts are fair and valid at law and that we have provided critical services to the country,” Levy responded.

“But is it fair that you are collecting 37 cents for every small vehicle for the next 10 years and you got these contracts without going to tender? Who is Univern?” Biti asked.

Mushosho said the contracts were private public partnerships (PPP).

“It is not just for software and it is also for maintenance. The world over, it is common to enter into a PPP for software,” Levy added. When asked to give figures of how much they made from the Zinara contracts, Levy and his team claimed they did not have them off hand.

The PAC said there was gross corruption, which showed that Univern was being protected by very powerful people, given the manner they got contracts without going to tender and their arrogance when responding to MPs.

In some of the software contracts entered, the audit revealed they were being extended for a further 10 years without going to tender. The audit noted that similar software supplied by South Africa’s Group Five, which revamped the Plumtree-Mutare Highway and constructed the tollgates on the road, was better that the one supplied by Univern, but had no similar strings attached.

Univern was asked to bring documents, showing investments and earnings from Zinara in a fortnight.

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