Govt moves in to address Covid-19 procurement corruption

Corona Virus
Corona Virus

Sydney Kawadza

Government has reacted swiftly to deal with potential corrupt activities in the procurement of locally produced Personal Protective Equipment in the fight against the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

This follows a highly explosive meeting held on Thursday between officials from the Ministry of Health and Child Care, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce and the National Pharmaceutical Company among others.

According to highly placed sources who attended the meeting, government has engaged officers from the President’s Office and Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate reports of corruption in the procurement of PPEs.

Government’s reaction follows an expose by The Anchor early this week where it revealed alleged shenanigans involving officials from the two ministries and NatPharm.

The sources added that the highly charged meeting finally agreed on three outcomes.

“Firstly, the meeting resolved to re-open of the bids by the Ministry of Health and Child Care with agreed upon specifications as guided by Section 28 of the Procurement Regulations to eliminate briefcase companies,” the sources said.

The meeting, according to the sources, agreed that the Ministry of Industry and Commerce should be kept abreast of the whole process of the bids.

“Secondly, the meeting agreed to consider funding in US dollar to procure the PPEs directly from the source or where they are cheaper including engaging local companies for the equipment.

“Lastly, the meeting agreed to conduct a baseline assessment of local companies to identify the capacity gap to manufacture the requisite PPE with a view to facilitate for capacitation and ensure local production of PPE,” the sources said.

This also follows a recent Cabinet directive that reputable and established companies be contracted to supply COVID-19 materials.

Addressing journalists after the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said government will deal with the briefcase companies that have emerged during the pandemic.

“Cabinet notes with concern the mushrooming of briefcase companies which are being involved in the tendering process for COVID-19 supplies.

“Government will leave no stone unturned in ensuring that such unscrupulous business elements are sifted out,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Thursday meeting also brought into the spotlight the recent appointment of former Health and Child Care secretary Dr Agnes Mahomva as Chief Coordinator of the National Response to the COVID-19 response.

In announcing the appointment, Chief Secretary to the Presidency and Cabinet Dr Misheck Sibanda said Dr Mahomva would, among her duties, be responsible for ensuring synergies in activities relating to the logistical, resource mobilisation, materials production and distribution, protective services and monitoring functions in the fight against Covid-19.

However, Dr Mahomva was conspicuous by her absence at the meeting on Thursday.

“What is on everyone’s mind at the moment is whether Dr Mahomva was promoted or demoted considering her previous assignment as permanent secretary.’

“The meeting was crucial considering her duties as outlined by the Office of the President and Cabinet.”

Fears that corruption could hamper government’s efforts to rope in local industry to manufacture PPES emerged recently amid allegations of corruption among senior officials.

Under pressure from health and medical professions to provide the PPEs, government was forced to reach out to Zimbabwean companies to manufacture the equipment including 100 million requirements of detergents, surgical and medical sundries for the country’s hospitals and health institutions.

Government had reportedly deployed officers from the Zimbabwe Defence Forces to manage the procurement of PPE.

The Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development had engaged universities and other tertiary institutions for the production of PPEs.

This initiative has, however, failed to yield enough stock in light of concerns raised by medical professionals across Zimbabwe.

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