TIZ Calls For Open Procurement In COVID-19 Response

Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ) has urged government to maintain public and open procurement systems to ensure transparency and accountability in procurement of Covid-19 supplies.

In a Press Statement, by TIZ Executive Director, Muchaneta Mundopa, the organisation said these recommendations comes in the wake of ‘skewed public procurement’ that could possibly benefit elite politicians.

Mundopa said they have noted “with concern a recent example of skewed public procurement process for medicinal supplies to combat COVID-19’ linked to political elites, in a murky deal involving a company only registered in 2020, which inflated prices of Covid-19 medicinal supplies.

Secretary for Finance and Economic Development authorized payment to Drax International LLC, for the release of medicinal and surgical goods worth US$980,000 which were held at Robert Mugabe International Airport in Harare.

Drax International LLC a firm registered in Dubai, linked to Dexter Nguwaya, vehemently denies these allegations, it has even issued a statement threatening legal action against anyone making these claims.

Mundopa called for open procurement and beneficial ownership transparency, which she said can also include ‘online procurement, and beneficial ownership transparency where possible, with rapid, trackable and transparent procedures of government expenditure in the Covid response.’

“Public sector procurement is one of the most significant economic activities of the government. Value for money is of paramount importance, especially now when lives could be at stake because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In addition to price gouging, TI-Z is greatly concerned about the lack of transparency about who owns the company providing the equipment. The company indicated was only established and registered in 2020 and has been linked in the media to political elites.

 “As rightly highlighted by other stakeholders, the prices of these goods are highly inflated, indicating a risk of corrupt practices that have been observed during the pandemic,” said Mundopa.

Mundopa said awarding of these contracts without going to tender was a red flag for corrupt public procurement, urging government to take measures to mitigate risks ‘such as hidden contracts, conflict of interests and price gouging of medicinal goods and services during the COVID-19 crisis.’

She said the measures can be simple tools which clearly outline public expenditure in a fast, efficient and transparent way, support emergency planning processes and accessible online for scrutiny.

“Awarding such nascent companies government tenders without scrutiny and offering them preferential treatment is a major red flag for corruption in public procurement processes,”

“…TI-Z recommends that the government should commit to, maintain public and open procurement systems including online procurement, and beneficial ownership transparency where possible, with rapid, trackable and transparent procedures highlighting the cost of procurement, the grade-level of the procured materials and delivery lead times to ensure public contracting processes that can withstand audit and are responsive to the health system.

“Monitor, deter, and take relevant action against individuals and companies involved in unfair trade practices including price hiking of essential goods such as masks, bibs, hydro-alcoholic gels and food,’ said Mundopa.

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