By Robert Tapfumaneyi
THE majority of the “special projects” undertaken in recent years by the Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (ZINARA) were nothing but a grand looting scheme engineered by senior executives and hired contractors.
In the process, ZINARA lost over US$70 million to a private company, Univern Enterprises, and in the process severely crippling its operations.
The massive looting of the parastatal’s resources was unearthed recently by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Public Accounts.
“The committee, therefore, makes the finding that the special projects were nothing other than looting of resources by the executive of ZINARA in connivance with corrupt contractors,” a report compiled by the lawmakers following a forensic audit for the period 2017-2019, reads.
“The committee further makes the finding that, in the majority of the special projects, there was no delivery, no performance, and no oversight by the ZINARA board.”
The parliamentary committee accused the ZINARA management and Univern of abusing principles of sound corporate governance in the supply of road graders, their maintenance, transit fees, the supply of software equipment for the toll gates, and fuel levy systems.
“Under these contracts, Univern received the following huge amounts, grader payments US$17 305 240 – (an overpayment of US$1 223 640), grader maintenance US$5 218 000 – (not covered in State Procurement Board’s conditions) and US$70 403 738 for the three software contracts between 2012 and 2015,” the report added.
“In addition, the committee makes the finding that there was a deliberate misleading to the State Procurement Board, which acting on wrong information or alternatively in collusion with the same proceeded to issue a condonation.
“The charges by Univern have crippled ZINARA and rendered ZINARA a collection agent for Univern very much against its core mandate. This is as unconscionable as it is unacceptable. ZINARA executed special projects with many questionable and dubious contractors which cost the organisation the sums of US$71 487 896, 21 and ZAR 31 452 102, 53.”
The Public Accounts Committee has since forwarded its report to law enforcement agencies including the police, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC), and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for “thorough investigations on commissions and omissions” by implicated individuals at ZINARA, Univern, and the then State Procurement.
It also ordered ZINARA with the assistance of experts, to recover all amounts corruptly paid to contractors.
“The recoveries must be made within a period of 12 months from the adoption of this report.”