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Fresh Details Emerge in the Kariba Municipality Water Pumps Saga

by Laiton Kandawire
20 Jun 2020 at 20:28hrs | Views
The Municipality of Kariba is on the ropes, battling potential reputational damage from the taint of accusations of unwholesome procurement deals that are allegedly at the core of poor service delivery in the resort town.

Following PNCR's story on water pumps last Sunday, an impeccable source within the Municipality of Kariba and privy to the dealings in the water pumps issue, sent through fresh details that seek to clarify matters. The details were made unofficially and under the cover of anonymity.

Although the new information tends to prove that all the necessary procurement procedures were followed and approvals obtained, it exposes the frosty relationship between management and councillors, the knowledge gap between the two parties and the level at which they engage.

Whilst councillors are under the fallacious impression that the supplier of the water pumps has been affected by COVID-19 lockdowns and closure of the international border between Zimbabwe and South Africa and have gone to share this erroneous position with residents and other stakeholders; management all along knew that the real challenge lies somewhere else. PNCR can  exclusively reveal that management places the delay squarely on foreign currency shortages.

The supplier, Aganang Consultancy (Pvt) Ltd, has only been "paid an advance upon submission of a mandatory bank guarantee", not the full amount due. They then "applied for forex through their bank to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), with the Municipality of Kariba (MoK) submitting supporting letters". The foreign currency was not availed by the RBZ. Since December 2019, reveals our source, Aganang Consultancy Pvt Ltd, has been on a waiting list for the allocation of foreign currency.

In February 2020, the supplier "got some allocation which allowed them to bring and install 2 pumps" out of the 6 ordered.

Kariba's active residents associations are aghast that management did not avail this information to the people's elected representative, the councillors. The Municipality of Kariba's 16th Finance Committee Meeting, held on 25th February 2020, was not told of the foreign currency challenges although already known by management. In fact, in a one-sentence entry in the meeting's minutes, it is declared that "the supply and delivery of water pumps should be concluded by 14 March 2020". This position was pronounced by  the Deputy Director of Central Administration. How was this even possible if MoK had been advised of foreign currency challenges and had even written support letters? Why was this crucial information kept away from the councillors? Councillors then went to town, telling everyone who cared to listen that the water pumps were on their way to Kariba and would be installed by the given date.

Samu Mawawo, the evergreen resident issues activist and outgoing Executive Chairman of KIARRA, claims that they, too, were kept in the dark. "We were never advised of the foreign currency challenges, only relying on false messages on WhatsApp from the Mayor".

Samson Coffee, manning the Kariba Urban Residents Association (KURA) Information and Publicity desk simply said "Let ZACC get into it as we were not told about this development". ZACC is Zimbabwe's anti-corruption body, often likened to a barking dog that seldom bites.

 The residents' leaders believe this is all a ruse to fleece Kariba of lots of money. Deposed Municipality of Kariba Budget Committee Chairman, Lister Nhigo, insists Kariba councillors are cosmetic lamppost tortoises who were used to endorse the engagement of "a briefcase company" to supply the water pumps". He is adamant that " pane varikudya ne this briefcase company ku Council uko" (some people within the Council are corruptly lining their pockets using this briefcase company).

Our source, however, says Aganang Consultancy Pvt Ltd, though not linked to the South African-registered and better known Aganang Consulting Engineers, is a "Zimbabwean company registered in terms of the Companies Act and also registered with Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe as a supplier of pumps". The source further states that "the company has references from other government parastatals such as ZPC as a reputable supplier" and was engaged by the Municipality of Kariba "through a competitive tender which was subject to the PRAZ Special Oversight Committee before being awarded".

PNCR's quest for the truth led to the Small and Medium Enterprises Association of Zimbabwe (SMEAZ) which lists Aganang Consultancy Pvt Ltd as a consultant in the fields of construction, energy, engineering and mining headquartered in Kariba at 416 Nyamhunga township and formed in 2018, less than 2 years ago. At this given address, there is no sign of the presence of any company and neighbours spoken to had no knowledge of such a company. Is this what Lister Nhigo means when he says a briefcase company was engaged?

 The Pumps

PNCR learnt that the six water pumps Kariba ordered are "only manufactured at KSB in South Africa, with 1 from Germany", hence the need for foreign currency. KSB is one of the world's leading manufacturers of pumps and valves, according to their website and testimonials seen by this reporter.

 Foreign Currency Sourcing

Aganang Consultancy Pvt Ltd apparently cannot source foreign currency on the black market, even if they wanted to, as part of the bank guarantee they presented to MoK. "The money will only be released by their bank to either pay KSB in South Africa directly or to get forex from RBZ", revealed our source. If the money has to be sourced through the bank, through the newly introduced foreign currency auction system starting on 23rd June 2020, Kariba should expect to pay at least four times more than originally budgeted.

Pumps Already Manufactured

It appears MoK cannot back out of the deal and find an alternative supplier as "the pumps have already been manufactured and await payment and collection", according to our source, privy to the proceedings.

The MoK management has been busy writing to local companies "who have access to forex to assist but no one is forthcoming", we were informed. The question from residents affected by intermittent water supplies is why a supply date was even advised in light of this challenge and the ensuing uncertainty. Our  source proffers that "all the promises that were made by Aganang and MoK management were on the basis of RBZ availing forex".

Zimbabwe is faced with serious foreign currency challenges and in turn procurement of key service equipment is affected. This shortage has led to unorthodox methods of getting the forex, fuelling corruption as the rates of exchange on the black market are largely based on speculation and not governed by any measurable variable, as is the norm in banking institutions.

Numerous public office bearers are being dragged before the courts for abuse of their privileged positions, enriching themselves at the expense of the citizenry. Our source however assures PNCR that even the five Toyota Hilux Twin cabs acquired by MoK are "part of Council service delivery equipment which has also gone through the relevant authorities for approval (PRAZ SPOC and ministry).

KURA are, however, not convinced with the authenticity of the deal and claim that they are at "the peak of investigations" although doors are being shut in their face on the pretext of fear of the Coronavirus, denying them the engagement they seek. Tapiwa Tawonameso, the KURA Executive Chairman, claims KURA have an upcoming appointment with the relevant ministry official" concerning the issue of pumps and prepaid meters.

Residential areas like Baobab Ridge Extension, the "Teachers"  section of Nyamhunga 3 and Mufelandawonye, acknowledged as problem areas, will only see improvements in service delivery thresholds when new water reservoirs are commissioned and the outstanding pumps are supplied.

As a footnote, our source added that procurement is a purely administrative issue, out of the purview of councillors. What should worry residents is how councillors will exercise their representation and oversight roles if the left hand is ignorant of what the right hand is doing.

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Source - Laiton Kandawire: Patsaka-Nyaminyami Community Radio Environment and Tourism Correspondent