Potraz boss’ charges withdrawn

The State yesterday withdrew before plea the criminal charges levelled against Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (Potraz) director-general Gift Machengete, who was being accused of violating the Procurement Act.

BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE

Machengete saw another charge of criminal abuse of office being scrapped by the State before plea two months ago.
Prosecutor Michael Reza announced the decision to drop the charges before plea, but did not proffer reasons to the court.

The withdrawal came a few days after the Special Anti-Corruption Unit (Sacu) dumped the same case before referring it to the National Prosecution Authority after it was postponed on several occasions, throwing into doubt whether the matter could proceed.

Machengete, represented by Selby Hwacha and Farayi Zuva, appeared before magistrate Hosea Mujaya.

The Potraz boss had his application for exception of the charges also dismissed by Mujaya after he challenged the validity of the charge on grounds that the facts the State relied upon did not disclose the offence.

He also challenged that in the absence of facts alleging inducement to adopt the alleged prohibited procurement method, the charge was vague and embarrassing.

Sacu has of late been criticised for not attending to its assigned cases.

Last month, Mujaya also castigated Sacu for taking his court for a traditional chief’s and belittling it by asking for several postponements without reasons.

Machengete was arrested after arriving from a medical operation in South Africa and spent a whole night in prison.
Allegations were that sometime in December 2017, Potraz resolved to procure containerised village information centres (CVICS) to mount countrywide.

The State alleges that in February this year, Machengete wrote to the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Praz), requesting a waiver of procurement regulations to enable the authority to purchase CVICS through quotations citing that container conversion was a specialised area.

It is alleged that Praz wrote back to Machengete advising him to follow the provisions of the Procurement Act.
The State further avers that, in defiance of the Praz advice, Machengete caused the sourcing of quotations for the supply of the CVICS from four companies.

Potraz then subsequently purchased 24 CVICS from B Smart Business Solutions at $70 682,95 each making a total of $1 494 104 through comparative schedule.

The State further alleges that Machengete, in his capacity as the accounting officer, signed the contract between Potraz and B Smart Business Solutions for the supply and purchase of the CVICS.

B Smart Business Solutions has since erected 20 CVICS with Potraz paying $1 032 755,38 through Paynet.

Machengete allegedly acted without lawful excuse by inducing Potraz to engage in procurement of CVICS using the quotations method which is prohibited by the Act in view of the price of the procurement requirement.

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