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Information Ministry loses ZW$32m in botched car deal; supplier previously blacklisted by PRAZ over similar scams

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By Mary Taruvinga, Senior Reporter


THE Ministry of Information was left counting its loses after being duped by controversial government vehicle supplier, Solution Motors, in a $47m deal, a Harare court heard recently.

Solution Motors has been involved in similar scandals before, begging the question why the company continues to win contracts with government departments.

The company was, last year, one of three vehicle dealers blacklisted by the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (PRAZ) for failing to deliver after winning tenders to supply vehicles to government departments and local authorities.

In the latest case with the Information Ministry, the company was paid  about ZW$47m to supply seven Toyota GD6 double cabs, four Datsun Go vehicles and one Renault K-wid.

Only supplied four Datsun Go and one Renault K-wid vehicles were delivered, causing the ministry to suffer a prejudice of about ZW$33m.

However, a fraud charge against Solution Motors owner Patrick Siyawamwaya and two other accused collapsed after Harare chief magistrate, Faith Mushure, ruled that the State failed to prove its allegations.

Siyawamwaya consequently walked free with the court telling the parties to pursue civil remedies.

“The relief the complainant seeks should be pursued in the civil court,” the magistrate ruled.

“All the three accused persons are accordingly found not guilty and acquitted. This is not to be taken that this court has made a pronouncement on the validity or otherwise of the contract.

“The court notes that it is sitting as a criminal court to determine whether or not essential elements of fraud have been proved.

“It is not for this court to delve into matters not before it by overreaching into the civil arena. It is not for this court to make any pronouncement on the nature and validity of the contract.

“This should be determined at the appropriate forum by a court clothed with the appropriate jurisdiction.”

Three witnesses, who include permanent secretary, Nick Mangwana as well as Ministry staffers Nyasha Bwirire and Farai Makuwaza testified against the car dealer.

Information ministry permanent secretary Nick Mangwana

Bwirire was the deputy director in charge of the Ministry’s procurement management unit and advised an evaluation committee for the contract which was chaired by Makuwaza.

Court heard that as part of a due diligence process, the Ministry team visited a bonded warehouse in Eastlea which supposedly belonged to Solution Motors where they were shown the type of vehicles the company had available.

The parties then signed the contract and payment of ZW$47 379 292 was made.

Only five vehicles were supplied. The twin cab trucks were never delivered although they were among the ten vehicles shown to Ministry staffers at the warehouse.

It would also later emerge that the bonded warehouse actually belonged to government tax collector Zimra.

Said the magistrate; “The third State witness (Mangwana) stated that he had concerns on the capacity of the third accused (Solution Motors) and therefore directed the evaluation committee to do due diligence and to obtain a bank guarantee.

“Despite such a clear and unequivocal instruction, the evaluation committee, led by the second State witness (Makuwaza), never bothered to verify the ownership of the vehicles, yet that was the main reason they had visited the bonded warehouse, according to him.

“It was Mangwana’s evidence that after initially holding out that the bonded warehouse belonged to Solutions Motors, it later turned out that, in truth and actual fact, the bonded warehouse belonged to ZIMRA.

“Considering that the contractual document was subjected to scrutiny by the ministry’s legal team before execution, it is highly unlikely and not in the least probable, that they too could have advised that it was in the best interests of the Ministry to enter into the contract without satisfying themselves that all the nitty-gritties of the contract had been covered.

“To the Court, that the contract was entered into in the face of these anomalies shows the complainant’s representatives chose to turn a blind eye to the anomalies and walked into the contract with their eyes fully open.

“That being so, the Court finds that the State has failed to discharge this onus as far as the crime of fraud is concerned.”

Solution Motors has been involved in similar controversies with government departments before, resulting in its blacklisting by PRAZ in 2021.

Among other cases, the company prejudiced the government of US$207 540 after failing to deliver vehicles in 2018.

This was picked up by the 2018 Auditor-General’s report, where the department of irrigation in the Ministry of Agriculture bought 10 vehicles from Solutions Motors worth US$518,850, but the company failed to deliver as per the tender awarded.