TSHOLOTSHO Rural District Council acting chief executive officer Nkululeko Sibanda has been arrested on allegations of fraud involving more than US$4,1 million.
Sibanda is alleged to have prejudiced the local authority of a total of US$4 179 900 through a botched hunting concession deal where he reportedly showed favour to Matupula Hunters, which won a bid to hunt in the northern part of Tsholotsho District where he allegedly reduced the original bidding price in the final contract.
Sibanda appeared before Tsholotsho magistrate, Mr Victor Mpofu last Tuesday facing one count of criminal abuse of duty as a public officer as defined in the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform Act). Sibanda was not asked to plead to the charges but was remanded out of custody to 15 October on $400 bail.
The prosecutor, Mr Farirai Chakamanga, told the court that not only did Sibanda allegedly reduce the original bid price, he had also unlawfully and intentionally tendered the Tsholotsho North hunting concession without seeking the necessary Cabinet authority.
“A memorandum of agreement between Tsholotsho RDC and Matupula Hunters was drafted, printed and given to the acting chief executive officer. A contract was signed between the two parties on 13 May before the final contract between the two parties was signed on 5 June 2019.
“The accused person caused a contract with reduced values to Matupula Hunters tender form; a bidding offer of $1 000 600 per annum translated to $5 003 000 for the five-year period towards the rural district council, community and wildlife projects was altered on the signed contract to read $1 000 600 only for the five-year period of the contract thereby reducing the bid offer by $4 002 400.
“On rural district council vehicles and board fees, Matupula Hunters presented a bid offer of $51 000 per annum with a total value of $255 000 over the five-year term, and on the final signed contract it was only reduced to one vehicle valued at $40 000 per five-year term, two motor cycles valued at $3 500 per annum and $7 500 per annum board fees, totalling $95 000 over the five-year term thereby reducing the bid offer by $160 000,” said Mr Chakamanga.
The court heard that Sibanda, since the bid was a joint venture initiative, proceeded with tender proceedings without the authority from Cabinet in terms of Section 100 of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Act.
“Accused was supposed to seek Cabinet clearance first before commencing tender procedures, was supposed to follow tender procedures in terms of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Act and was supposed to draft the contract quoting offered values, social and wildlife responsibilities and other offers as submitted by the winning tender on the submitted form of tender considering that the bid offers contributed in issues considered in selecting the tender winner,” noted the prosecutor.
The bid for the hunting concession had attracted four bidders, namely Matupula Hunters, Lodzi Hunters, Mapassa Big Game Hounds and Statunga Zimbabwe, with Matupula Hunters wining the bid on 16 April as they had the highest bid.
After the awarding of the tender to Matupula Hunters, one of the bidders; Lodzi Hunters challenged the tender process to the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (PRAZ), alleging there were gross irregularities leading to PRAZ unveiling these criminal mishaps, resulting in Sibanda’s arrest.