LOCAL telecommunications companies are crying foul over NetOne’s decision to award $200 million equipment upgrading contract to a Chinese firm Huawei Technologies without following tender procedures and approval of the State Procurement Board (SPB). REPORT BY SENIOR REPORTER
The State owned mobile network operator, last year signed a telecoms equipment deal for its base stations and an assortment of other equipment worth over $200 million with Huawei Technologies, but local operators argued NetOne could have saved at least half the amount had it offered the contract through public tender.
The matter was also discussed by the SPB at its last meeting on Thursday with the board understood to have rejected the move by the government owned entity. “Without going through a tender process and approval of the SPB, local companies were automatically denied an opportunity to do business,” a source said. “Through public tender it could have saved at least $100 million for the country.”
Contacted for comment, NetOne managing director, Reward Kangai, said the upgrading of Huawei equipment could only have been undertaken by the same firm. He, however, could neither confirm nor deny that the awarding of the contract was done without the approval of the SPB.
“There are no local telecommunications equipment manufacturers in Zimbabwe . . . local companies cannot manufacture the required equipment. They will, however, be sub-contracted for the equipment installation, undertaking of civil and structural engineering works pertaining to the passive infrastructure components of the project such as towers, equipment buildings etc. Consultancy work for the civil and structural engineering works will also be provided by local companies, including Environment Impact Assessments required by the proposed loan financiers,” Kangai said.
“We have insisted that Huawei Technologies sub-contract local companies for the services portion of the project, which involves equipment installation, as was done previously for the recently completed $45 million project. This has provided employment opportunities for Zimbabweans.”
He added the whole project was subject to external funding being made available and urged the local media to be supportive as local firms would benefit from the multi-million dollar project.
“The above project is clearly subject to approval by the SPB, which is the final arbiter of such procurements by Public State Enterprises like NetOne and other Government departments,” Kangai said.