Bu­l­awayo City Coun­cil re­ports fraud­u­lent Harare com­pa­nies to po­lice

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page - Whins­ley Masara

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

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