By James Muonwa l Mashonaland West Correspondent
NYAMINYAMI Rural District Council (NRDC), chief executive officer, Cletus Gwabva Matingwina, who was arrested on allegations of criminal abuse of duty, appeared in court last week over the dubious awarding of sport hunting concessions.
The cumulative value of potential financial prejudice is over US$ 900,000.
He was arraigned at Chinhoyi Court Complex on Friday facing two counts as defined in section 174 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9:23.
Chinhoyi Magistrate Shepherd Munjanja admitted the accused to US$400 bail and ordered him to reside at a given address, not to interfere with witnesses and to report once every fortnight at Siakobvu Police Station.
Matigwina will return to court on December 1 for routine remand.
The complainant in the matter is Benson Share, operations director at the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (PRAZ).
Matingwina, accused of disqualifying winning bidders and replacing them with ones he favoured, is the CEO and accounting officer entrusted to ensure procurement processes are carried out in compliance with the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets (PPDPA) Act chapter 22:23.
On the first count, the State led by prosecutor Brighton Machekera, alleges in November 2022 council floated a tender and invited bids for sport hunting concessions in Okay North and South under tender number NRDC003/22 and NRDC004/22 in respect of the two swathes of land.
Bids for the two tenders were opened on December 1, 2022, in the presence of bidders and tender NRDC003/22 for Omay North Area 1 got four bids namely Hingeston Hallamore and Koch Safaris (HHK), Sunfish Enterprises (Pvt) Limited trading as Bulembi Safaris, Old Way Safaris (Pvt) Limited and Martin Pieters Safaris.
Court heard that on December 12, the evaluation committee recommended that tender number NRDC003/22 for Omay North Area 1 be awarded to Martin Pieters Safaris having to be the overall highest bidder and, in the event that it fails to take the offer, the contract be awarded to Bulembi Safaris.
However, Martin Pieters was disqualified on the basis that it submitted two bids against the requirement of part (l)(b) of the Standard Bidding Document (SBD), which states that bidders were only allowed to submit one bid.
Mutigwina is said to have sought advice from PRAZ on how to evaluate a tender process where there was the need to balance between the value of investment and community social responsibility.
Initial tendering was subsequently cancelled due to weakness in the SBD, and with PRAZ’s advice, it was recommended to craft a new SBD with clear evaluation criteria striking a balance between trophy fees and community benefits.
As a result, the sport hunting tendering was restarted for Omay North Area 1 and on April 16, 2023 council invited bidders and the same bids responded with their offers.
On April 19, 2023, the accused person appointed the evaluation committee which scrutinised the tender on April 23, 2023, carrying out administrative, technical and financial evaluation.
During the process, it was noted that Martin Pieters Safaris was the bidder, which offered a more feasible community social responsibility. However, out of three bidders, Bulembi had the highest bid based on financial and community benefits. It was then resolved the contract be awarded in preferential order of Bulembi Safaris, Dalton and York, Martin Pieters Safaris and HHK.
The award criteria was also premised on proof of the companies’ directors not having pending issues in court or criminal records.
On April 25, 2023, accused person went on to disqualify Bulembi Safaris on allegations that it was a subsidiary of Safrique Safaris, which had pending cases in the Supreme Court under case number 395/22 which was never attached.
He proceeded to provisionally award the contract to Martin Pieters Safaris contrary to the law, which does not provide for the provisional award of contracts.
Investigations established that there was no evidence to show Bulembi Safaris was a subsidiary of Safrique Safaris. Mutigwina’s unilateral decision to disqualify a recommended bidder in the absence of proof justifying his decision was meant to favour a losing bidder to the prejudice of a winning bidder.
On count two, the chief executive officer disqualified winning bidders for Omay South Area 2 under tender NRDC004/22 in which four bidders took part.
When the evaluation committee sat it recommended that the tender be given to Afropride Safaris on the basis of it being the highest bidder.
However, the accused person, without justifiable reason, issued letters of award that were in contrast with the evaluation committee’s recommendations wherein he cited that Afropride Safaris had failed to provide documentation that cleared it of any crime or pending court cases.