Karoi council procurement committee in cellphone storm

By Nhau Mangirazi

Karoi town council procurement committee is in a storm after allegedly inflating mobile prices exposing suspected abuse of public funds.

Council finance committee chaired by councilor Thomas Mbiri picked up a suspected ‘defrauding’ anomaly.

According to documents seen by this publication a memo by the buyer department requested mobile phones and Bluetooth printers on 13 October 2020.

‘‘I am requesting for ten mobile phones and ten portable Bluetooth printers. These will be used for the Town Park traffic management system previously adopted by council. The preferred phones must be running at least Android version 6 and printers need to be the same,’’ reads the request from procurement committee that sought three quotations to acquire Itel P36 Pro mobile phones.

The first request for quotation was from a Harare based company called Gripp Investment P/L that had Samsung galaxy A10 going for ZW$25 200.00 instead of Itel P36 Pro as required by council.

It offered USB External HDD Bluetooth at ZW$10 520.00 while HP 290 G2 desktop 500 gig was pegged at ZW$110.000.00, HP 15 Core ram at ZW$120.000.00.

They had power cables for desktops pegged at ZW$1200.00.

BusTech set Itel P36 Pro mobile phone price at ZW13 800.00 each.

A local company picked for the mobile phones is reportedly a stationary supplier around Karoi town and Hurungwe district.

The company Davvita Enterprises pegged the Itel P36 Pro at ZW$17500.00 each with a difference of ZW$3700 from BusTech.

On 12 March 2021, a transfer of ZW$175 000.00 presumably for ten gadgets was made through council’s Agribank account.

The transfer could not go through and bounced back accruing tax and bank charges amounting to ZW$9, 1 75.00.

Finance committee tabled its findings to full council last month.

Chairperson Mbiri raised dust over how council was losing out financially where the procurement committee prefers to buy from companies that offer higher prices.

Policymakers called for a probe into the matter last month but the matter was referred to audit committee that has not reported yet to council on its findings.

Council spokesperson Precious Nharara confirmed the matter recently.

In a written response Nharara said, ‘There are internal processes that are underway to establish if there was anything unusual around the purchase of the gadgets that you are enquiring about. As such there is no council position on the matter at the moment and council will inform on the findings of the processes as indicated,’’

In a related matter, council is suspected to have lost out USD$800.00 paid as ‘facilitation fee’ after the local authority purchased two Honda Fits cars for Revenue and Procurement departments.

One of our sources said, ‘‘Council bought a Honda Fit each for Revenue department as they make errands to collect revenue and licenses around town. The other car is for procurement committee as they sought quotations but we understand money changed hands and it is getting worse at the council,’’  

The council has been under spotlight from residents after it allegedly purchased a UD refuse truck from Solution Motors in 2017 that is reportedly still to be delivered.

Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (PRAZ) blacklisted Solution Motors among other suppliers that failed to deliver goods after winning tenders from Government departments and councils.

Solution Motors is fighting legal battle with Karoi town council after failing to deliver refuse truck ordered in 2017.

PRAZ acting Chief Executive Officer Clever Ruswa confirmed that Solution Motors is among three suppliers blacklisted.

In Karoi residents have demanded transparency, accountability and feedback on public funds marred in controversy.