It wasn’t just the $9200 laptops, govt cancelled other inflated payments

Leonard Sengere Avatar

It was in September last year when we witnessed the infamous US$9,200 laptops saga. The Clerk of Parliament had authorised the purchase of 173 laptops at $9200 each and 79 desktops at $3000 each but had to throw the tenders out after a public outcry.

For the baron out there who may not know, those were inflated prices. We are eternally grateful to whoever leaked the details of those tenders. They saved the country a few cents.

Now, it’s not enough to say the tenders were cancelled. We have to find out what exactly happened. How did we almost sign off on such a terrible deal? So, the administrators involved have to be questioned and that’s what the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is doing.

We were not going to see the Finance minister answer for the whole shenanigans. However, we expected to see the Finance ministry clerk provide answers but he’s apparently out of the country. I don’t know what he’s doing over there but I don’t imagine it’s more important than these hearings.

If it’s that important, we still could have rescheduled the hearings to make sure he was available. That’s neither here nor there in the end, the responses we will get were written already, what is only changing is who gets to give them to us.

It wasn’t just the laptops

The director of expense management in the Finance ministry sat before PAC to talk about the whole saga. PAC is interested in finding out where the current tender system is flawed to allow for such a deal to almost go through.

We hope they can squeeze out that information and that it will lead to a tightening of the tender process. What we have for now is more information on just how flawed the system was.

The expense management director says it wasn’t just the laptops. Oh no. The ministry received a tip-off that most of the payments they were making to government departments were inflated. Said he,

We then issued a circular directed to all ministry departments and agencies indicating that Treasury was suspending all payments pending undertaking of due diligence in the procurements of various goods and services as there was a note that there was overpricing and inflated pricing

He said the tip-off advised Treasury to review all contracts, not just the Parliament ones concerning the laptops. I still believe whoever tipped them off did it not from a patriotic position but was left out of the deals and decided to pour water on the whole operation.

Whatever the case, Treasury says they are working on a framework to ensure government agencies and ministries do not overpay for goods and services. The framework involves coming up with standardised pricing for goods and services.

For some reason, I assumed such a framework already existed. Are we really saying there wasn’t standardised pricing? Well, we shall see where this all goes.

Also read:

Are the $9,200 laptops that the Zim parliament almost bought really overpriced?

The crazy drama behind the High Court ruling ZIMDEF’s SAP software tender is illegal

Basel Institute says Zimbabwe has high levels of corruption

9 comments

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  1. D.K.

    It looks like all the companies which worked on the roads were paid. What guarantee was the government given on the emergency road rehabilitation, as some of the worst potholes are on the rehabilitated roads, less than two years after the rehabilitation?

    1. Leonard Sengere

      That’s a good question. We can’t be paying out millions and not have an ironclad agreement on rehabilitation. Maybe it’s all covered in the contracts but we don’t know the specifics.

  2. Masvingo Zimuto

    Government was also contributing to the problem. How on earth can you supply goods and not even know when your payment is coming. Every supplier will issue a quotation and when the quote is approved why refuse to pay,?

    1. Leonard Sengere

      100% agree. Suppliers know that the govt is slow in paying and so they charge accordingly. There is such a thing called time value of money after all.

  3. Blasher shereni

    One and half years down the line CMED has failed to rehabilitate 7km masotha ndlovu road in waterfalls. They couldn’t even do 50% of the road.

    1. Unsn

      Hahaha they wont even bother with that one

    2. Leonard Sengere

      18 months to do less than 3.5km? What is going on there? There must be a story.

  4. The Empress

    In Zimbabwe the government is now in the business of catch and release. They are not even ashamed about it anymore.
    The PAC was asleep at the wheel it would have been one thing if their actions stopped all payments in a specific ministry/department because of a tip-off but it was across the whole government showing that they were not even doing the most basic of random audits and was clueless about everything.
    The PAC is about as useful a roll of used tissue paper, but then again that’s exactly how the powers that be want it to operate !
    I mean what else can you expect when the powers that be seem to use the yearly report from the Auditor General’s office as a report to inform them whether their minions are forwarding the appropriate cut in full and as a sort of guide on where next they can cut a piece of flesh for their own personal gain.

    1. Leonard Sengere

      I have witnessed some of those audits and I can tell you that they are done just so reports can be filled out. Unless they were tipped off, they go through the paces.
      You’re right that if the ministries and agencies have to answer for the inflated prices, so does the PAC. Before the whole $9200 laptop scandal, everyone knew about such shenanigans and they’re trying to tell us that those who were supposed to monitor those processes did not have a clue? They knew but couldn’t be bothered or worse still, were getting their own cuts.