Covidgate: NatPharm Bosses Appear In Court For Criminal Abuse Of Office

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By Staff Reporter

THREE top NatPharm bosses Wednesday appeared before Harare magistrate facing charges of approving DRAX International LLC to supply and deliver medicines and surgical sundries to the government without following procurement procedures.

The three are; Florah Nancy Sifeku, 67, managing director; Charles Mwaramba, 78, operations manager; and Rolland Mlalazi, 55, finance manager.

They jointly face criminal abuse of office charges.

They appeared before Magistrate Vongai Guriro, who remanded them to July 3 after granting them $10 000 bail each.

According to the State, Sifeku and Mwaramba in December 2019, disregarded a directive from the Permanent Secretary in the Health Ministry to perform a tender.

This was after DRAX Consult SAGL had written a letter of interest to supply Zimbabwe with medicine and surgical sundries under a US$20 million facility.

Sifeku and Mwaramba allegedly awarded the tender directly to Drax Consult SAGL without going to tender to supply medicines and surgical sundries, claiming this was in response to an emergency and withheld the tender documents for a month, while they were processing another tender for the same company under a loan facility.

The State said they used the two tenders to award and sign a contract for Drax Consult SAGL under the loan facility of US$20 million.

Drax Consult SAGL is said to have supplied US$2.7 million of which US$2 million out of the total amount was for performance guarantee after it failed to secure one from European banks.

After realising that Drax Consult SAGL had failed to supply the medicine and sundries within three months as per the agreed contract, Sifeku and Mwaramba allegedly deliberately failed to cancel the contract for non-performance.

On another matter in which Sifeku and Mlalazi are jointly charged, the State alleges that sometime early this year, Health Minister Obadiah Moyo was approached by Delish Nguwaya and ILir Dedja, who introduced themselves to him as Drax International LLC’s country representative and legal representative, respectively.

Nguwaya and Dedja are said to have tendered an expression of interest, saying their company had capacity to supply medicines to Zimbabwe through a US$40 million loan facility.

Moyo is said to have asked the then permanent secretary Agnes Mahomva to process the offer.

Mahomva is said to have advised Sifeku and Mlalazi to procure the medicines according to the procurement procedures.

The State alleges that knowing that Drax International LLC had changed its name to Drax Consult SAGL and previously known as Papi Pharma and had also failed the vetting, Sifeku and Mlalazi went on to offer it another tender to supply US$13 351 071 worth of medicines.

On April 9, 2020, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Finance George Guvamatanga wrote a letter to Mahomva after noting that Sifeku and Mlalazi had entered into an agreement with Drax International LLC.

Mahomva, on the following day, responded to the letter saying they had not given NatPharm the green light to sign the contract.

Acting on the contract, Drax International LLC is said to have supplied 3 740 pieces of coverall protection, CatIII type 6B worth US$336 600, 5 040 N95 masks worth US$141 120 and 15 000 pieces of SARS COV2 test kits for US$510 000.

In another case where Sifeku is appearing on her own, the State had it that sometime in March 2019, Minister Moyo was approached by Nguwaya with a letter of interest to supply the country with medicines through a US$15 million loan facility.

Moyo is said to have referred the letter to the former permanent secretary  Gerald Gwinji.

On April 11, 2019, Gwinji is said to have written to Sifeku recommending NatPharm to work with 65 product lines of medicines worth US$9.4 million and negotiate the prices downwards.

In the same letter, NatPharm was directed to come up with comparative international prices for the products and apply for necessary waiver from the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe.

Sifeku, without drawing the comparative international price schedule and waiting for due vetting process for PAPI Pharma, allegedly went on to sign the agreement to supply medicines worth US$6 306 115.