From the documents in the public domain, the awarding of tenders to Blinart Investments P/L and Mid-End Computers Hardware P/L for the purchase of laptops and desktops at unit costs of US$9,264.48 and US$3,076.61 respectively raises red flags on the possibility of procurement malpractices. The unit prices of the equipment are not only exorbitant but also obscenely suggestive of procurement-related corruption.
In a Press Statement dated 17 September 2022, the Clerk of Parliament confirmed that all necessary procurement procedures were followed. The suppliers’ submissions were considered by the Evaluation Committee and further scrutinised by the Special Oversight Procurement Committee (SPOC), which Committees approved the above-stated suppliers. Approval of such exorbitant prices exposes the lack of integrity on the part of all the actors involved in the two transactions in question and calls for serious investigations and inquiry into the possibility of undue influence and/or fraud in the evaluation of bids. This leaves the probity of these Committees highly questionable.
These transactions and conduct violate Section 315 of the Constitution, and provisions of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act [Chapter 22:23], which prescribe that procurement of goods and services by the State and all institutions and agencies of government at every level must be affected in a manner that is transparent, fair, honest, cost-effective, and competitive. This conduct by Parliament erodes public trust in government institutions, damages institutional integrity, and distorts public sector outcomes. Corruption, whether grand or petty, remains one of the greatest challenges facing our country, holding back economic growth and social development.
Parliament as a key oversight institution has a constitutional obligation to “monitor and oversee expenditure (by all government ministries, departments and agencies) to ensure that all revenue is accounted for; all expenditure has been properly incurred and any limits and conditions on appropriations have been observed.” While this may appear as episodic (a single act of corruption), its effects are far-reaching and can eventually lead to an unethical organizational culture, which can escalate to systemic corruption. Of obvious concern to TI Z are the increased instances of corruption in the public sector attested to by this incident and several audit reports by the Auditor General, with total impunity.
We believe the Parliament of Zimbabwe as an oversight body ought to be exemplary in terms of its conduct in public procurement and supervision of its own expenditure. Parliament, just like any public institution, is not immune to public scrutiny and accountability. For TI Z, the cancellation of the contract should not settle the matter without further scrutiny of public procurement frameworks to plug any loopholes and prevent any recurrence of these malpractices.
TI Z acknowledges current efforts by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (MoFED) to rein in unfettered over-expenditure by clamping down on overpriced goods and services procured on behalf of the State. The Office of the Auditor General should complement these efforts by launching a forensic audit of the Parliament of Zimbabwe in the procurement of goods and services in 2021 & 2022, given the apparent deficiencies in the procurement process. This forensic audit will undoubtedly establish the extent of corruption in the institution and flag out corruption risks in public procurement. The findings from the audit should be made public for accountability purposes. Evidence presented so far is suggestive of collusion between public servants, parties in the private sector and individual citizens.
TI Z urges the Parliament of Zimbabwe to consider this as a form of financial misconduct in line with Section 85 (1) (b) of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). Proper disciplinary procedures should therefore be followed consistent with Sections 87 and 88 of the PFMA. We envisage a society in which citizens have the confidence and knowledge to hold public and private officials to account, and in which leaders have integrity and high ethical standards that are expected of the offices they hold.
Given the foregoing, it is equally imperative that the Parliament causes public disclosure of the beneficial owners of Blinart Investments P/L and Mid-End Computers Hardware P/L and ensures that they are personally blacklisted from any future Government procurement process, along with all entities that they have current and future association with. Publishing these details will not only allow the public to know the specific individuals who are receiving personal gain from such despicable acts of corruption but also enable local businesses to remove them and their associated entities from their suppliers’ lists. The publication will also certainly act as a deterrent mechanism.
TI Z remains concerned with the rising of corruption levels in the country as noted by the Global Corruption Perception Index (CPI) for 2021, as well as its study into Bribery in the Public Sector, the National Bribe Payers Index (NBPI) for 2021. Robust accountability measures are called for to weed out corrupt elements.Post published in: Business