UNDER-FIRE management at the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) has been accused of impropriety and corruption after allegedly diverting a tender for the procurement of scrap steel to a Chinese national without following due process.
By Nkululeko Sibanda
Transport and Infrastructural Development minister Joel Biggie Matiza at the weekend said Cabinet had passed a vote of no-confidence in the current NRZ management led by general manager Lewis Mukwada.
Matiza said there was need for the NRZ board to install a new management for the parastatal by September.
In 2018, the NRZ flighted a tender for the procurement of scrap steel in the media, and 71 bidders submitted bids.
Out of the 71, the top 10 were selected and allocated 500 tonnes of scrap steel each, with information suggesting that the 5 000 tonnes that were on offer would see the NRZ realising about US$2,5 million.
One of the bidders, Bulawayo-based businessman Daniel Chikaka, told NewsDay Business yesterday that the NRZ management decided to “steal” his financier in the deal, a Chinese national, whom they smuggled into the procurement deal in return, allegedly, for kickbacks.
“The NRZ management stole my partner in the scrap steel deal and they made money through corruption. They were paid handsomely by the Chinese national. Some of them even boasted about the rich pickings they realised from diverting my client and smuggling him into the procurement arrangement which he had not even tendered for,” Chikaka said
“I brought Youngwei Guo into the scrap steel deal as my partner because he was to finance my bid to procure scrap steel from the NRZ and the managers at the company sweet-talked him to renege on his earlier undertaking to partner me in the deal,” an aggrieved Chikaka said.
An agreement signed by the two parties, Bentttad Metal Scrap Merchants and Polypackaging (Pvt) Ltd, seen by this newspaper shows they entered into a partnership for the procurement of the scrap steel.
“We hereby by agreeing to work together, Benttad Agencies (Pvt) Ltd (referred to as Benttad) being subcontracted by Polypackaging (Pvt) Ltd. Benttad won the tender from NRZ for cutting and collecting scrap wagons which amount to
US$225 000 for 500 tonnes, which will be delivered to Panellink in Kelvin South, directions by Polypackaging after payment (has been) made to NRZ by Polypackaging. All rights and risks going to pass to (sic) Polypackaging,” the agreement reads in part.
Chikaka added that his partner, as a result of the agreement, deposited money into the NRZ account, whose aim was to finance the procurement of the steel.
“On December 8, 2018, Guo deposited US$225 000 into the NRZ account which was for the steel that I, under the banner of Benttad Scrap Metal Merchants, had acquired from the NRZ.
NRZ public relations manager Nyasha Maravanyika, in a response, said the parastatal had followed due process in awarding the tender to Polypackaging.
He added that from the records, the company, Polypackaging, had been part of the tendering process, something Chikaka disputed, arguing he single-handedly brought Guo into the picture.
“From what I have been told, Polypackaging was part of the 71 companies that bid for the scrap steel in the first place. They, however, did not make it into the top 10 owing to a number of reasons,” Maravanyika said.
He added: “With regard to their emergence later in the deal, we are informed that they did enter into a partnership arrangement with Benttad, but there were challenges with the compensation that would accrue to either party once the deal was finalised, hence the pull-out of Polypackaging from the deal.”
Maravanyika said NRZ took the deal to other companies that had placed bids after Benttad failed to pay what was due to the NRZ on three occasions.
“Benttad, I am told, was given three grace periods up to December 12, 2018 during which it failed to pay for the scrap. That is why the tender board decided to cancel the deal with them because they had failed to come good on their side of the bargain. The NRZ did not choose who was to be handed the deal because of other reasons but simply because they had the money to pay for the scrap steel,” he said.