Health Minister Obadiah Moyo's detention drama: Police, govt and ZACC officials clash

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Government officials allegedly put pressure on police to release Health minister Obadiah Moyo after his detention on Friday over the $60 million Covid-19 medical supply scandal amid fears his case will collapse due to interference.

There were alleged attempts to take Moyo out of Harare’s Rhodesville Police Station on Friday night as some unnamed government officials wanted him to spend the night at home before his court appearance yesterday.

According to officials close to the case, the minister was arrested in the evening by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc), but was only booked into the cells at 2am.

He only went into detention after his family brought a mattress and blankets, the sources said. Moyo only slept for about five hours before he was taken to Zacc offices at around 8am.

The sources said there was haggling between the police and Zacc with the anti-graft body insisting that Moyo should be detained overnight.

Moyo used his official vehicles to go the Harare magistrates’ court.

He was released on $50 000 bail by chief magistrate Munamato Mutevedzi after prosecutors gave their consent.

Zacc spokesperson John Makamure and police spokesperson Paul Nyathi both professed ignorance about the drama surrounding Moyo’s detention.

The insiders, however, said it was linked to squabbles between Zacc and the President’s Office, where some officials allegedly tried to block the minister’s arrest.

When he arrived at the courts, Moyo remained in his car for close to three hours before his case started after lunch.

Prosecutors immediately consented to bail on condition that he surrendered his passport, title deeds of a property in Eastlea in the name of his wife Memory Moyo as surety and that he reports at Zacc offices three times a week.

After he was released on bail, Moyo’s aides were seen carrying a heavy box full of cash to pay for the minister’s freedom. The clerk of court, however, preferred electronic payment and the box was ferried back to Moyo’s vehicle.

Laying out the charges, Prosecutors said sometime in March last year, Moyo was approached by Delish Nguwaya, a country representative for Papi Pharma LLC, who proposed to supply the government with medicines and sundries through a US$15 million loan facility.

Moyo allegedly agreed and instructed former Health ministry permanent secretary Gerald Gwinji to process the paperwork and award the tender to the company under a direct purchase.

It is alleged that on March 20 last year, Gwinji wrote a letter to Treasury requesting that due diligence be undertaken on Papi Pharma LLC before it could be contracted.

But Moyo, using his position and influence, directed Gwinji to engage Papi Pharma LLC before a response on the due diligence had been received from Treasury.

On March 25, Gwinji allegedly received a response from Finance permanent secretary George Guvamatanga requesting to be furnished with competitive international prices for the various medicines outlined in the schedule by Papi Pharma LLC.

On Moyo’s instruction, Gwinji directed Natpharm GM Flora Sifeku to proceed with the procurement process with Papi Pharma.

As a result, prosecutors said on May 29, NatPharm used a direct purchase method and awarded the tender to Papi Pharma LLC before due diligence was concluded.

On June 14, Foreign Affairs permanent secretary James Manzou produced an adverse report on Papi Pharma that indicated the company and its director Klodian Allajbeu were linked to a terrorist group known as the Gulen Movement.

According to the charges, Moyo “showed favour to Papi Pharma”, causing a potential prejudice of US$15 million to the government.

On the second charge, prosecutors said on August 22, Nguwaya visited Moyo in the company of Illir Dedja, a Drax Consult SAGL representative, where the two presented a letter of expression of interest in the supply of drugs worth US$20 million under Drax.

Moyo allegedly gave the letter to then permanent secretary Agnes Mahomva for processing after his approval. Mahomva then asked Treasury to conduct a due diligence on Drax. On September 19, Guvamatanga received a response from the President’s Office, with indications that the business activities of the company could not be ascertained. Guvamatanga allegedly wrote to Mahomva advising that it was not advisable to engage Drax due to an adverse due diligence report.

But the following day, Moyo phoned Guvamatanga indicating that new information showed that Drax had been cleared.

Moyo allegedly exerted pressure on his subordinates, particularly Mahomva, to award a tender to Drax for the supply of medicines through NatPharm during meetings he held in his office with officials from the ministry, Natpharm and Drax.

On December 11, NatPharm and Drax entered into a contract and the company supplied medicine and surgical sundries worth US$2 733 980, of which US$2 million was paid by Treasury into Drax’s Hungary account.

Prosecutors said Moyo’s conduct caused a potential prejudice of US$17 266 020.

Moyo allegedly facilitated another contract for Drax International LLC to supply drugs worth US$40 million despite the fact that the company had failed a security check.

Treasury, however, ordered the cancellation of that contract, but Drax supplied Covid-19 test kits valued at US$987 720, which were procured after the contract was cancelled.

On May 8, Moyo allegedly gave an instruction for Guvamatanga to facilitate clearance of the test kits which were being held at the airport that had been supplied under Drax’s cancelled US$40 million contract.

Prosecutors said on the same day, Moyo personally handed over an invoice worth US$987 720 to Guvamatanga from Drax.

Moyo claimed there were 15 000 test kits at the Robert Mugabe International Airport, but when he went to check the consignment, Guvamatanga discovered that there were only 3 700 test kits.

Nguwaya is already in detention over the scandal.

— The Standard


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