CLERK of Parliament Kennedy Mugove Chokuda and the House’s procurement director Stanley Bhebhe appeared at the Harare Magistrates Court yesterday facing criminal abuse of office charges for their role in the purchase of overpriced laptops.
The duo was remanded to May 1 on $100 000 bail by magistrate Vongai Muchuchuti-Guwuriro.
It is the State’s case that on June 17, 2022, Parliament advertised for the supply and delivery of 173 laptops and 79 desktops.
The State says 92 companies showed interest, but the list was trimmed on August 29. Parliament notified Mid-End Computers that it had been awarded a contract to supply 79 desktops at US$3 076 each with a total value of US$243 052,59 payable at the prevailing interbank rate then.
However, Treasury refused to release the funds saying the computers were too expensive.
It is alleged that on September 30, Bhebhe wrote on Chokuda’s instruction to the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Praz) asking for authority to negotiate a price reduction.
Bhebhe allegedly instructed Rudo Doka, the director of external relations, to append her signature on behalf of Chokuda who was at the time in Bulawayo for a workshop.
It is alleged that Praz advised Parliament that the request for a price reduction was contrary to section 52 of the Procurement Act which prohibits negotiations between procuring entities and bidders.
It is alleged that the accused persons had, however, already negotiated for price reduction with Noah Sakudye, the director of Mid-End Computers.
The State further avers that on August 29, Blinart Investments (Pvt) Ltd was notified by Parliament that it had been awarded a contract to supply 173 laptops at US$9 264,49 each with a total value of US$1 602 755,77 payable at the prevailing interbank rate then.
Again, Treasury refused to release the funds. Using the same modus operandi, a price reduction was negotiated with Blinart Investments director Elizabeth Muchenje leading to each gadget being reduced to US$7 985,69.
The State alleges that accused persons acted contrary and inconsistent with their duties as public officers.