‘Govt cancelled payments after inflated prices tip-off’

Clerk of Parliament, Kennedy Chokuda

THE Finance ministry says it cancelled payments to government departments for goods procured last year after receiving a tip-off that most of them had inflated prices.

This was said yesterday by Norbert Machinjike, the director of expenditure management in the Finance ministry when he appeared before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to speak on the Parliament of Zimbabwe laptops tender saga, which was cancelled over allegations of inflated prices.

The Parliament tender was for the supply of 173 laptops that were deemed overpriced by the Finance ministry at US$9 200 each.

Clerk of Parliament, Kennedy Chokuda had authorised the US$1 602 755 tender, which was won by Bilnart Investments P/L.

Another company, Mid-End Computers and Hardware, was also contracted to supply 79 desktop computers, also overpriced at US$3 000 each.

The tender was then cancelled in a letter dated September 23 after a public outcry.

Yesterday, Machinjike appeared before PAC to speak about the flawed tender system.

“We then issued a circular directed to all ministry departments and agencies indicating that Treasury was suspending all payments pending undertaking of due diligence in the procurements of various goods and services as there was a note that there was overpricing and inflated pricing,” he said.

“Treasury responded to the anonymous letter in the interest of safeguarding public resources, because from the letter, there was a requirement that all the contracts should be reviewed.”

Machinjike said the letter was not written to Parliament alone, but was a requirement that all contracts should be reviewed. He said the Finance ministry would come up with a framework to ensure that ministries and government agencies do not overpay suppliers for goods and services they procure.

“The ministry is working on a framework to come up with standardised pricing for goods and services, which are commonly used in government ministries and other departments to that effect. One of the first categories was completed on February 2, and we are still working in the other category to ensure that this (overpricing) does not happen again.

“When you see that you’re about to lose resources from a financial perspective, you stop payment. The motive of the ministry is to ensure that there is value for money in terms of things that have been procured. We need to ensure that the procurement process is not marred by these irregularities which we have seen previously,” he said.

Legislators expressed disappointment over the absence of Finance ministry secretary George Guvamatanga in Parliament. He was said to be out of the country.

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