The special committee tasked with assessing the appropriateness of the purchase of vehicles under the $144 million China Exim Bank loan facility presented its findings to council on Friday. Investigations ran for more than a month, though the initial time frame was set at two weeks.
The committee was appointed in May with the mandate to investigate the implementation of the water rehabilitation project after councillors alleged mismanagement of project funds. Council executives were accused of purchasing 50 luxury vehicles using funds from the loan without council’s approval. The loan was provided to facilitate the Morton Jaffray water works upgrade.
Councillor Stewart Mtizwa (chairperson of the investigation committee) and deputy mayor Thomas Muzuva represented City of Harare (CoH) in the committee. The investigation committee also had three outsiders who included accountant Gabriel Chipara, civil engineer Richard Maasdorp and lawyer Tendai Toto.
The investigation committee found out that 21 top of the range vehicles worth $1.4 million were purchased for members of the project team. The vehicles are three Discovery 4s, three VW Amarok twin cabs, four Ford Ranger twin cabs, six Toyota Hilux twin cabs and five Isuzu KB250 twin cabs.
The committee said that it agreed with the project executive that project motor vehicles are necessary for any project but, said it had reservations on the type of the purchased vehicles.
“Council would assume that priority would be given to service motor vehicles, tractors and necessary equipment under schedule K of the Bill of Quantities. Priority was placed on the project motor vehicles for the project team. There was no reasonable explanation on why this was the case,” read the investigation committee report.
“There was no justification for buying the type of vehicles that were purchased. For example, of what use is a Discovery 4 to the water project? There was also no justification to purchase motor vehicles for all team members most of whom spent their time in offices and presumably use the motor vehicle to attend meetings,” noted the investigation report.
The investigation committee also noted that council executives did not follow the proper procurement procedures and guidelines in the purchase of the vehicles as set by council.
“The project executive and his team did not follow the procurement procedures and regulations in the acquisition of all items that fell under schedule K of the bill of quantities and budgeted to the tune of $8 million,” pointed out the investigation report.
However, the special committee said that it was worrying to note that there was no plan in place for transparency and accountability with regards to the vehicles.
“Besides, the usage of the project motor vehicles is not sanctioned by anybody .i.e. mileage and purpose of use. CoH accounts for the service, insurance and maintenance of the project vehicles. The CoH transport department must put in place a motor vehicle usage policy for these vehicles to curb the possibility of abuse,” recommended the investigation report.
In conclusion the investigation committee said that the purchase of vehicles was long done and there is nothing much that council can do.
“The purchases are irreversible…Council may reprimand the project executive and demand adherence to the CoH procurement procedures and regulations on future purchases,” said the report.
After presentation of the report in a special council meeting, council expressed satisfaction on the findings of the investigations team and resolved to refer the report to committees for further recommendations on action council needs to take in light of the report.
Other councillors said that council should appoint a board of directors to run the Harare water utility. It was then resolved that a board be set up for the Harare water utility within one week to avoid further inconsistencies in the running of the water rehabilitation project.