Bulawayo City Council reports fraudulent Harare companies to police
THE Bulawayo City Council has finally handed over to police a case in which the local authority was allegedly defrauded of more than $300 000 in botched ambulance and vehicle tracking system deals by two Harare-based briefcase companies.
The local authority has been failing to recover $303 000 paid as deposit in two separate deals for a fleet of ambulances and the installation of a tracking system.
According to the latest council report, chamber secretary Mrs Sikhangele Zhou told councillors it was difficult for council to track the companies because their telephone numbers were no longer reachable.
“Both companies are based in Harare, and so the investigating officer had since asked for transport to speed up investigations.
“It was in council’s interest to bring closure in these matters and authority was thereby sought from council to provide transport to the investigating officer and his team,” said Mrs Zhou.
She said the case was an old one dating back to 2010 when council paid deposits of $205 000 and $100 000 after awarding tenders for the purchase of ambulances and a vehicle tracking system. “The contractors had however disappeared without trace prompting council to refer the matter to court as it appeared to be a civil case involving a breach of contract. A judgment was obtained in favour of council in 2014 but the contractor could not be found.
“Council had engaged tracers to no avail and the matter had thus hit a brick wall. The matter was subsequently reported to the police for appropriate action. It was the officer assigned to this case who was now asking for a municipal vehicle in order to pursue investigations in Harare. This was in view of the transportation constraints at ZRP which were likely to delay the investigations,” she said.
Deliberating on the transportation constraints which are suspected to have been hindering successful investigations for the investigating officer, councillors decided to transfer the case to police in Harare to avoid incurring unnecessary expenses.
“Providing the ZRP with transportation as suggested, would set an undesirable precedent or else there must be clarity as to why the matter cannot be transferred to Harare,” suggested a councillor.
In 2010, council awarded a tender to Access Medical Corporation for the supply and delivery of four ambulances.
It also tendered out for the supply, installation and the commissioning of vehicle tracking and a fleet management system. The tender was awarded to Tracker Engineering Private (Ltd).
The contract price was US$501 500 and council was supposed to pay a deposit of US$100 000 and $203 106,40 for the ambulances and the balance was to be paid within a period of 36 months.
The municipality paid $100 000 deposit for the vehicle tracking system.
After paying both deposits, for the vehicle tracking system, and the ambulances, Tracker then started requesting for extension and relaxation of certain clauses in the contract while Access Medical kept promising that the ambulances would be delivered.
It was reported that the company had disappeared and its e-mails were bouncing back.
A recent Government audit has exposed loopholes in the Bulawayo City Council’s audit system. The local authority’s books were last audited in 2012. The Government audit exposed rot in which councillors were allegedly selling each other land at giveaway prices, at the expense of service delivery. —@ winnie-masara
Mrs Sikhangele Zhou