SPB caught offside, again
Golden Sibanda Senior Business Reporter
THE State Procurement Board might have violated procurement regulations after it emerged the tender board has not disclosed results of a $570 million solar tender four months after holding a price opening ceremony.
In terms of Statutory Instrument 171 of 2002 (Advising Tender Results), the SPB is required to advise bidders of its decision within 10 days of receiving recommendations from the procurer.
“The procuring entity shall be advised of the board’s decision within 10 working days after sending the recommendations to the board to enable it to enter into the necessary formal procuring contract with the successful tenderer,” reads an excerpt from the Statutory Instrument regulations.
But the six bidders for construction of three solar power plants, each with capacity for 100 megawatts, have been kept in suspense since October last year when the tender closed. The projects will be in Insukamini, Munyati and Gwanda.
The six companies vying for the multimillion- dollar sol project are China’s ZTE Corporation, China Jianxi for International Co-operation, Afriven Investments, Lanlake Trading, Intratrek Zimbabwe and Number 17 Metallurgical China.
“It’s a 300-megawatt solar tender first floated in 2012, but was cancelled after the Tender Board failed to agree with the bidders. A special formal tender was then issued for the original bidders.
“The price opening ceremony was held four months ago, but SPB has been sitting on the documents,” said a source privy to the issue.
It is, however, baffling how the SPB still wields power to delay projects of national interest in a country facing power crisis, considering that its powers were cut on concerns of corruption.
Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Dr Misheck Sibanda told permanent secretaries and other heads of Government departments at a workshop in February that the decision to cut SPB’s powers was taken in order to curb corrupt activities.
As such, accounting officers in Government departments and companies were empowered to award contracts with the SPB now required to play a supervisory role to ensure that State entities comply with provisions of the Procurement Act.
Delays by SPB come against the backdrop of debilitating power shortages in Zimbabwe due to limited generation capacity, as it cannot import much from its neighbours who also face deficits.
Zimbabwe requires about 2200mw at peak of demand, but is currently battling to maintain average generation of 1200mw, which is feared may have a negative impact on economic recovery.
Although Government has enlisted Sino Hydro to expand Kariba South by 300mw and Hwange by 600mw, the projects will take at least 42 months before connecting to the grid.
Further, delays in disclosing results of the solar tenders come at a time when output from the country’s biggest power plant, Kariba South, is seen falling due to effects of drought while problems at Hwange have taken out 400mw from the grid.
“Kariba water flow has deteriorated, because of the drought this year meaning less power output. Hwange has gone down 400mw and it will take a year to resolve the problem,” a source said.
A 100mw solar power plant may take nine months to complete and each can be done in gradual phases.
Zimbabwe Power Company managing director Mr Noah Gwariro said recently that contracts for the winning bid could be finalised by end of the month, but it now appears the timeline could be missed given the situation on the ground.
No comment could be obtained from SPB board chairman Mr Charles Kuwaza as he had not responded to written questions he had requested by the time of going to print yesterday.
However, while the SPB is delaying the implementation of the projects by not announcing the winning bidder, Lands and Rural Resettlement Minister Dr Douglas Mombeshora recently said ZPC had been allocated enough land for the projects.
Zimbabwe, by virtue of its predominantly sunny climatic conditions, wields great potential for solar power projects just like neighbouring South Africa, which has installed a total of 600mw.
In fact, the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation 2014/18, targets tapping solar power and other renewable sources of energy to meet the country’s needs.
The single biggest solar farm in Africa is found in Ghana, which has installed 300mw whereas in South the 600mw is made up of a mixed bag of generation plants scattered across the country.