Lovemore Chikova News Editor
A parliamentary portfolio committee has written to the Clerk of Parliament pressing contempt of Parliament charges against State Procurement Board chairperson Mr Charles Kuwaza after he failed to provide information requested on two occasions.
The committee said in the letter in possession of The Herald that the questions it raised to Mr Kuwaza were of a serious nature and the success of programmes under the Zim-Asset economic blueprint required transparency at the SPB.
Clerk of Parliament Mr Kennedy Chokuda is expected to swiftly act on the matter and grant the nod for Mr Kuwaza to be charged.
Mr Kuwaza caused a stir in the House on the two occasions when he refused to answer questions and did not provide the information needed by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy even after he was given time to prepare.
The committee wanted Mr Kuwaza to answer questions with regards to the tendering system used in projects in the electricity sector, specifically under Zesa Holdings’ Zimbabwe Power Company and the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company.
“Given the gravity of this matter and the need for Parliament to stamp its authority, it is the view of the committee that formal proceedings against Mr Kuwaza be executed without delay,” read the letter written to Mr Chokuda by the committee’s clerk.
“The chairperson of the SPB acted in contempt of Parliament by failing to answer lawful questions posed to him as prescribed under the schedule to the Privileges, Immunities and Powers of Parliament Act.
“The committee recommends that the executive chairperson of the SPB be charged under Appendix B of the Standing Rules and Orders, on schedule in the Privileges, Immunities and Powers of Parliament Act which prescribes the various offences.
“Mr Kuwaza’s contempt was aggravated by the following breaches as prescribed in the schedule. 1. Refusing to be examined before or to answer any lawful and relevant question put by Parliament or a committee. 2. Prevarication or other misconduct as a witness before Parliament or a committee.”
The committee is chaired by Zanu-PF MP for Gutu Central Cde Lovemore Matuke.
The committee said to show his disregard for rules and procedures, Mr Kuwaza even shouted at the legislators.
“When the committee chair had courteously ordered him to rescue himself, Mr Kuwaza shouted: ‘can we have order in this committee’, suggesting that the committee was disorganised,” read the letter.
“Mr Kuwaza’s arrogance, misrepresentations and refusal to provide responses directly impaired the committee and hence Parliament as a constitutional body’s ability to discharge its oversight function.”
The committee said it called Mr Kuwaza to a meeting to gather pertinent facts on the operations of the SPB and tendering system in the electricity sector after repeated public concerns on alleged irregularities in the Government tender system.
Mr Kuwaza appeared before the committee on June 30 2015, but the meeting was aborted after it was discovered that he did not provide answers as had been asked in the invitation letter sent to him on June 9.
“In this aborted meeting, Mr Kuwaza brought neither written responses nor oral responses,” said the committee. “He thus failed to articulate what he had been asked to explain. The committee resolved to give him more time to adequately prepare and the meeting was adjourned to the committee’s next sitting date.”
The next date was on July 6 and the committee expected Mr Kuwaza to answer all the questions, including additional ones.
In the meeting, it was apparent that Mr Kuwaza had not prepared a written response as directed, the committee said.
“When asked again to respond even orally to questions that were raised in the letters send to him, Mr Kuwaza indicated that he had send an email dealing with only one issue of the mandate of SPB, of which he could not provide proof of the email,” said the committee.
“Members of the committee took turns to impress upon Mr Kuwaza that it was important for him to provide answers that had been lawfully asked of the SPB, but all these efforts by members were in vein as Mr Kuwaza became visibly abusive and at one point suggested that there was no order in the committee.”
A member of the committee who refused to be named told The Herald yesterday that Mr Kuwaza’s behaviour was tantamount to sabotaging Government programmes.
“Government projects cannot move forward without proper procurement procedures being followed,” said the legislator. “When the Government identifies a project, the next thing is to do a feasibility study and then go to procurement. Once these processes are not done correctly, it means nothing meaningful comes out.”
The media has been awash with stories exposing irregularities at the SPB, with some of the revelations showing there could be massive corruption involved.