THE Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) is politically hamstrung to arrest deputy Health minister John Mangwiro after he allegedly coerced state-owned medical supplies entity NatPharm to award an inflated US$5.6 million Covid-19 tender to a Chinese company in which he had a personal interest in 2020, because of the influence of Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga.
The NewsHawks, in partnership with Transparency International Zimbabwe, is following up on the use of Covid-19 funds in the interest of transparency and accountability. Mangwiro is Chiwenga’s political ally and his personal doctor.
He was on Chiwenga’s side as he battled a life-threatening illness in China, before making a stunning recovery following life-saving surgery at a top military hospital in Beijing in 2019.
Chiwenga and his allies however believe Mangwiro is being targeted as part of a ploy to go after the vice-president’s allies while also roping in the vice-president in the corruption scandal.
“Despite Zacc investigators doing investigations and producing a report which implicates Mangwiro and suggests he acted to serve his personal interest at the expense of national interests by forcing NatPharm to award Young Health Care Limited the tender, nothing has happened because of the political implications. Chiwenga has flexed his muscle and Zacc has been forced to retreat,” an official close to the case said.
“The merits or demerits of the case do not matter at this point. Politics is now at play. Zacc had recommended that Mangwiro be further investigated, before being arrested and prosecuted over the matter. There has, however, not been any movement since 2020.”
Specifically, Zacc recommended that Mangwiro be charged for criminal abuse of office. Asked for an update on the Mangwiro case, Zacc chairperson Loice Matanda Moyo declined to comment, saying she was on leave.
Zacc spokesperson John Makamure was neither answering phone calls nor responding to text messages. He read his WhatsApp message, but did not respond to The NewsHawks.
Mangwiro intervened after NatPharm had blocked the company in which he had an undeclared interest from getting a tender to supply vital Covid-19 materials. This even after Young Health Care had reduced its inflated quote by a staggering US$2.6 million.
After an investigation, Zacc recommended that Mangwiro, Chiwenga’s deputy and his personal physician, be investigated and prosecuted for criminal abuse of office.
“The actions of the deputy minister signal a personal interest in the tender, and this should have prompted him to declare his interest,” a stinging internal Zacc memo leaked to online media said after a review of tender NAT TCB FWWK 04/2020 for the supply of laboratory equipment, reagents and consumables for Covid-19 to NatPharm.
Sources told The NewHawks in November 2020 that Zacc was at the time pressuring the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Praz) officials to say that Mangwiro was acting under instruction from Chiwenga while he was in China over the corrupt deal.
“What is happening here is this: Zacc and Sacu think that Chiwenga is the one behind Mangwiro in the deal. Their story is that when Chiwenga was in China he brokered the deal and then assigned Mangwiro to execute,” a source told The NewsHawks.
“They say Chiwenga wanted to bring the supplies through Mangwiro from China where he had gone for medical review, but since it was urgent they decided to send a plane to deliver instead of waiting for him to bring the materials, which they initially thought of.
“For that to happen, Mangwiro had to prevail over NatPharm to give Young Health Care a supply contract. That’s where the Praz people come into the equation over adjudication. In a bid to get his way, Mangwiro became desperate and even called them during awkward times like around 10pm to secure the tender. They say this was because he was under pressure from his own boss, Chiwenga. Now Zacc wants Praz officials to say that Chiwenga was involved; that he is the principal in the deal and Mangwiro is just a runner.”
According to Zacc’s investigation findings over the tender, carried out between August 31 and September 4 2020, one of the Health ministry’s directors, Dr Gibson Mhlanga, then acting Health secretary, wrote to NatPharm on 15 July 2020, instructing the company to “make direct procurements of supplies from Young Health Care.”
Zacc said this was in violation of Praz Circular 1 of 2020 which decrees that “only Praz-listed suppliers are sources of Covid-19 supplies.”
“Initial quotation by Young Health Care for supply of commodities under direct procurement, where prices quoted by Young Health Care Limited were exorbitant amounted to US$5.6 million, which was coincidentally the same amount that was in the ministry coffers, suggesting that the company had inside information,” the Zacc report said.
Zacc said after NatPharm insisted on a competitive bidding process, Mangwiro — a medical doctor appointed to deputy minister in September 2018 — demanded that the tender be delayed to allow Young Health Care to register with Praz.
“When NatPharm insisted on competitive bidding, Young Health Care Limited subsequently submitted a bid price of US$3.6 million for the same items. This saw a reduction of 36 percent in the price,” the report said.
Zacc said when the emergency 48-hour tender was finally floated on 5 August and closed on 7 August, 22 bidders including Young Health Care Limited made bids. Young Health Care, according to the Zacc probe, missed out on the tender.
Zacc, citing the then acting NatPharm managing director Zealous Nyabadza, said this angered Mangwiro who summoned the company’s top managers late at night “to explain why the tender was not awarded to Young Health Care Limited.”
“The deputy minister also demanded that a purchase order be issued that same night. The adjudication team was picked from their homes around 10pm and were interrogated by Mangwiro until the early hours of the following day. The deputy minister threatened the team with dismissal for failing to award Young Health Care the contracts,” the report said.
Zacc also found that Young Health Care had also been given a purchase order by NatPharm for nucleic acid, purification machines, transport media and reagents.
After delivering on two of the four purification machines and about 6% of the other two orders, the company reportedly requested an advance “contrary to the terms and conditions of the contract signed with NatPharm, which stipulates that payment should be made seven days after delivery”.
The equipment received by NatPharm was worth US$124 630.40.
Mangwiro “insisted on pre-payment and tasked the technical team from NatPharm procurement to visit Young Health Care Limited in their country office and verify available stock in order to compel the NatPharm acting MD to make a prepayment to Young Health Care Limited”, the report said.
The verification team found that items amounting to US$127 643.20 were in stock instead of the US$922 000 requested for pre-payment. In the end, Zacc said Mangwiro’s alleged actions “violated the evaluation process since the technical team did not have the mandate to carry out the verification of supplies”.
Nyabadza wrote to the Health ministry permanent secretary Jasper Chimedza on 26 August 2020 “informing him of the pre-payment issue and seeking guidance on how to proceed”, but received no reply “prompting him to decline taking Mangwiro’s instruction to pre-pay Young Health Care”.
“Given the extent to which the deputy minister was involved in the said tender process, indications are that he was acting in his own capacity and not on behalf of the ministry . . . The conduct of the deputy minister during this tender process warrants further investigations for criminal abuse of office for possible violation of Section 174 of the Criminal Law Codification Act [Chapter9:23],” the report said.
“Apart from this provision, further investigations should be conducted to ascertain possible violation of Section 14 of the Public Finance Management Act [Chapter22:19] by the deputy minister through giving ministerial directives having financial implications when he demanded prepayment of undelivered goods to Young Health Care. There is need for further investigations into the possible violation of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act [Chapter 22:23] as the conduct of the Deputy Minister might have compromised the independence of NatPharm as a procurement entity.”