Corruption: Court confirms house forfeiture

22 Oct, 2021 - 00:10 0 Views
Corruption: Court confirms house forfeiture

The Herald

Daniel Nemukuyu Investigations Editor

IN a decision that resonates with Government’s stance of curbing corruption, the Supreme Court has confirmed the forfeiture of a Ruwa house belonging to former Parirenyatwa Hospital pharmacy stores controller Russell Tatenda Mwenye, which is believed to have been built from proceeds of sleaze.

Mwenye is facing corruption charges after he ordered supplies at inflated prices from a company he was connected with.

The High Court, a year ago found there was a probable chain of links connecting the acquisition of the property to the inflated prices of the successful supplier before ordering its forfeiture to the State.

Parirenyatwa Hospital reportedly lost US$500 000 and more than $600 000 after Mwenye allegedly flouted the tender procedures and offered Silksilver Investments (Pvt) Ltd the tender to supply medical sutures on many occasions.

He then allegedly used the proceeds generated by the awards to build a house in Mabvazuva, Ruwa.

The High Court granted an application for civil forfeiture brought by Prosecutor-General Kumbirai Hodzi against Mwenye and his wife Rutendo Vera.

Mwenye and Vera appealed to the Supreme Court seeking to save their property from forfeiture.

Supreme Court judges Justices Susan Mavhangira, George Chiweshe and Felistus Chatukuta yesterday unanimously dismissed the appeal after hearing arguments from both parties, putting an end to the forfeiture issues.

The head of the Asset Forfeiture Unit at the National Prosecuting Authority, Mr Chris Mutangadura, successfully crashed the grounds of appeal, resulting in the three judges dismissing the challenge.

The Supreme Court being the highest court of appeal, the house is now indisputably the property of the State.

The forfeiture application was made in terms of the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act.

In a civil action, proof is based on the balance of probabilities, a lower hurdle than the proof beyond reasonable doubt required in a criminal trial.

In granting the order for civil forfeiture, High Court judge Justice Benjamin Chikowero traced Mwenye’s “hidden hand” starting with the corrupt placement of the order to procure the medical sutures from Silksilver.

Government, through the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1), emphasises the importance of promoting good governance and its key principles of transparency and accountability.

A corruption-free Zimbabwe attracts investors and makes the country a safe investment destination with a view to achieve an upper-middle class status by 2030.

Asset forfeiture is at the centre of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy launched by President Mnangagwa in July last year.

Mwenye’s link to Silksilver, its decision making structure, control of its finances and the property in question became manifest once Parirenyatwa Hospital terminated his employment.

The court noted that Mwenye’s wife occupied the position of administration officer at the company.

Flancon Investments (Pvt) Ltd had initially won the tender to supply the sutures at a cost of US$37 844 on the basis that it was the cheapest bid that met the tender specifications.

Silksilver Investments (Pvt) Ltd participated in the bidding process and lost, so in the lawful course of things, Parirenyatwa Hospital should have bought the medical sutures from Flancon, which had won the tender, but this was not the case.

For reasons which the court said could only be attributed to corruption, Silksilver, the losing bidder, supplied the sutures at a cost which was more than double what Flancon had charged.

Parirenyatwa Hospital paid US$86 381 for the sutures and the money was paid into Silksilver’s CABS account.

Silksilver allegedly supplied the hospital group on 98 separate occasions and was paid US$477 801 and $621 554 in local currency.

Charges against Mwenye arose in March 2016 when Parirenyatwa Hospital flighted a tender requesting bids for the supply and delivery of surgical sutures.

After the hospital’s tender committee carried out due processes, it awarded the tender to Flancon Investments (Pvt) Limited, the cheapest of the bidders.

Order forms were then reportedly raised by the procurement department and forwarded to the pharmacy department for recommendations by Mwenye before they were to be passed to the hospital’s chief pharmacist for approval.

But Mwenye allegedly did not action the papers and waited until surgical sutures stocks went critically low, creating an unnecessary emergency in the process.

Mwenye then assigned Yvonne Mudimu, a section head in the surgical and sundries department, to make a direct purchase of the sutures from Silksilver Investments for US$86 381 without going to tender.

Silksilver Investments had bid for the tender, but failed to meet the specifications required.

A surgical suture is a medical device used to hold body tissues together after an injury or surgery.

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