Tawanda Musarurwa Senior Business Reporter
The new Zimbabwe National Roads Authority (Zinara) board says it will review the contract given to private software firm Univern Enterprises amid allegations of corruption and inefficiency.
The new board, which was appointed this January led by Engineer Michael Madanha, is moving to implement recommendations of the Grant Thornton forensic audit report, which unearthed serious corruption at the parastatal, starting with the contracting of “software partner” Univern Enterprises.
In the first instance, Univern was contracted out of normal tender procedures that are in place for state entities such as Zinara, a development Engineer Madanha confirmed saying “there was no compliance with standing public procurement procedures”.
The Zinara board chair said they have come across qualified opinions from the authority’s auditors and will deliberate on the issues raised.
“We have actually passed a board resolution to the effect that we want to review the contract but what we have been made to understand is that the system provider didn’t just inject money in terms of software, they also injected money in terms of hardware. They provided training, they do all the repairs at the tollgates, and they also do systems auditing,” Eng Madanha told the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) recently.
“We also need to discuss issues to do with skills transfer, ownership and make sure that any deal is favourable to Zinara.”
Univern Enterprises chief executive Serge Levy is on record maintaining that his company with engagement with Zinara is a PPP.
“We are seized on finding out how much they (Univern) injected into the partnership to justify this status as a PPP. The board will be inviting them soon to discuss all these issues,” said the new board chairman.
Zinara has been implicated in several cases of alleged corruption.
The forensic audit by Grant Thornton shows that cumulatively, Zinara paid an unregistered company — Bermipools — US$589 748,94 in two years. Grant Thornton also established that Bermipools is one of the companies that was used by Twalumba Holdings to get a contract from Zinara.
The PAC has been investigating the Zinara-Univern deals, with the inquisition raising some red flags on some of the terms of agreement, not least the procedural contract itself.
The committee discovered, for example, that under the contract for vehicle licensing, indications are that Zinara paid Univern over US$33 million in four years and US$10 million under the tollgate contract between 2013 and 2015.
It also came out from the questioning that Univern signed contracts running for as long as 10 years for provision of software for vehicle licensing, tollgates and supply of graders. Univern has also been shown to be getting a lion’s share from license fee collections, vehicle transit fees and fuel levy as well as road access fees.
And the benefits to Univern vary according to contract, with earnings ranging from 12 percent to as high as high as 22 percent of Zinara’s gross earnings per category.
Univern is also alleged to have been paid US$3 million over a three-year period to supply the parastatal with stationery and also supplied graders that were said to be fit only for use in snow in one of the contracts they signed.