Potraz boss challenges prosecution, argues charges do not constitute an offense

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By Mary Taruvinga

Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (Potraz) director general, Gift Machengete wants charges leveled against him dropped after the State altered its charge sheet.

The former Central Intelligence Organisation director administration was facing criminal abuse of office charges but the charge has now been changed to “induce a procuring entity to engage in procurement by a method that is prohibited by the Act.”

Machengete is accused of violating the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets (General) Regulations 2018.

His trial was supposed to start before Harare Regional magistrate Hosea Mujaya but was postponed to a later date to allow the State to reply to his application excepting to the new charge.

It is Machengete’s argument that the new charge does not disclose a criminal offence.

“In the absence of anything in the charge and or outline of the State case particularising exactly how the accused allegedly induced or intended to induce Potraz to adopt the alleged prohibited procurement method, the charge is vague, and it does not constitute a cognisable and certain offence to which the accused person can be asked to answer,” the Potraz boss argues in court papers.

“It is not legally tenable for an accused to plead to a charge in which there is no averment as to how he allegedly committed the offence.”

The state is expected to respond to his application on March 25.

Allegations are that sometime in December 2017, Potraz, a procuring entity, resolved to procure containerised village information centres (CVICs) which were going to be mounted countrywide.

On February 7, 2018, Machengete wrote to the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (PRAZ) requesting a waiver of procurement regulations to enable the Authority to purchase CVICs through quotations citing that container conversion was a specialised area.

PRAZ responded directing Machengete to follow the provisions of section 30 of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Act.

On February 15 however, Machengete is alleged to have caused the sourcing of quotations for the supply of the CVICs from four companies and a memo recommending the transaction he also approved.

Potraz subsequently purchased 24 CVICs from B Smart business solutions at $70 682.95 each making a total value of $ 1 494 104, 33 through comparative schedule.

This was despite that the value involved needed competitive bidding method in terms of the said Act and regulations Machengete had been directed to follow by PRAZ.

On April 6, Machengete then signed the contract between Potraz and B Smart solutions for the purchase and supply of the CVICs.

Court heard B Smart Solutions has since erected 20 CVICs and Machengete has since paid $1 032 755. 38.

Machengete acted without lawful excuse by inducing Potraz a procurement entity in terms of the Act to engage in procurement of CVICs using quotation method that is prohibited by the Act in view of the price of the procurement requirement.

Machengete will be back in court on March 25.