Brian Chitemba Investigations Editor

SENIOR Government officials reportedly connived with private suppliers to siphon US$3 million from Treasury by inflating prices for Covid-19 consumables, it has been learnt.

The matter is being investigated by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) after the lid was lifted by a whistle-blower.

ZACC spokesperson Commissioner John Makamure said arrests of Government officials were imminent as the anti-graft body was seized with the matter.

“The names of the Government officials and private suppliers cannot be released now as investigations are still underway,” he said.

Recently, Comm Makamure said a ZACC compliance and systems review unit descended on Government offices to probe a multi-million-dollar tender as allegations were raised that Covid-19 materials had been inflated to bleed Treasury.

The investigation resulted in the tender being cancelled, saving US$3 million.

“Even if the tender was cancelled, an act of corruption was committed, hence the ongoing investigations,” he said.

This comes a few months after former Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo was arrested in connection with a US$60 million procurement scandal involving Drax International.

Dr Moyo is out on bail.

Said Comm Makamure: “In the past couple of weeks, ZACC’s compliance and systems review unit managed to save the country over US$3 million that could have been siphoned to line the pockets of corrupt elements within our midst. These individuals imposed proxy companies which did not comply with provisions of the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (PRAZ) Circular 1 of 2020 for emergency procurement of Covid-19 materials.

“The individuals went on to demand payments of goods at an extremely inflated cost. The ZACC compliance team’s intervention, after having been informed of the unavailability of the said materials, subsequently resulted in the cancellation of the tender, saving State funds in the process. The matter is now under investigation to bring those behind this scam to book.”

He said there was a worrying trend of wanton violation of PRAZ Circular 1 of 2020 for emergency procurement of Covid-19 materials, which was promulgated to allow for the expeditious purchase of medical equipment and drugs as the nation fights Covid-19.

Those in charge of buying the Covid-19 materials, Comm Makamure added, should be transparent and accountable or risk going to jail.

“Because Covid-19 is a global pandemic, the response is naturally of an emergency. In taking such emergency measures, countries have necessarily relaxed safeguards by trading compliance, oversight and accountability for speed of response and achievement of rapid impact, thus leading to the creation of significant opportunities for corruption to thrive,” he said.

“The commission has lived up to its warnings by maintaining constant vigilance on how the Covid-19 resources are being used. Teams from investigations and compliance departments were deployed to specifically look into the procurement, distribution and use of the resources.”

ZACC chair Justice Loyce Matanda-Moyo recently warned ministers against interfering with procurement processes in parastatals under their purview.

Comm Makamure lauded Government for allowing ZACC to fight corruption and enhance transparency in the procurement of Covid-19 materials.

“The commission will leave no stone unturned to uproot corruption and complement Government efforts to restore sanity in the health delivery sector,” he said.

“We would like to emulate other countries that have successfully curbed corruption in the management of resources earmarked to fight the pandemic. Critically, resources earmarked for social and economic stimulus must reach the intended beneficiaries.

“These resources are for preventing economic catastrophe and providing financial, medical and social support to the poor, the elderly, women and youth, people with disabilities, the unemployed, small and medium enterprises and those lacking access to social and public services. They must never be looted to benefit the already well-to-do members of society.”

President Mnangagwa has continuously reiterated that corruption allegations will be thoroughly investigated and those found on the wrong side of the law will face the music.

He also ordered an audit into the purchase of the Covid-19 materials, which is still underway and is being done by the Auditor-General’s Office.