Ministry of transport marred with ‘irregular’ deals

Controversy, irregular deals and suspicious contracts seem to follow Minister of Transport Joram Gumbo around
Controversy, irregular deals and suspicious contracts seem to follow Minister of Transport Joram Gumbo around

This article is a continuation of a Khuluma investigation which began in 2017. An earlier article we carried last year implicated Grace Mugabe, and South African associates in an irregular Beitbridge Border post deal. This article is also a follow up to an article published here yesterday about eyebrows raised over dodgy characters in the NRZ deal.

Tapiwa Vhurundiya (Khuluma Reporter)

Several government deals at the ministry of transport in Zimbabwe are irregular with indications that there have been deliberate attempts to block, flaunt, or override tender processes, as well as award contracts to friends and kickbacks, Khuluma Afrika has established.

Some evidence uncovered also suggests government funds were used to start what is effectively a veiled family business by the current Minister, Jorum Gumbo.

Fly like a bird…

Khuluma Afrika was told by at least three independent sources that during consultations by the government the board at Air Zimbabwe was misled into believing that the ‘leasing’ deal with Malaysian Airways was meant to benefit the state airline.

Consequently, resources were availed for the trip to Malaysia, as well as securing the deal, only for a new player (Zimbabwe Airways) to emerge later.

Khuluma Afrika met with sources close to the deal with Malaysia in Thailand over the weekend and was told that the Malaysians had been misled into believing they were entering a partnership with Air Zimbabwe.

“At the start, they were very jittery about entering a leasing deal with an unknown player. They preferred to deal with the state because a sovereign state cannot change its address nor run away. The tune was quickly changed and they were told that Zimbabwe Airways is Air Zimbabwe re-branded, which of course is not the case”, one source told the publication.

Zimbabwe Airways is a private business which is reportedly owned by Robert Mugabe’s son-in-law Simba Chikore.

A report carried in local press towards the end of last year highlighted that Minister Gumbo’s niece was the registered owner of the house which Zimbabwe Airways is renting as its offices, leading many to believe the Minister has a private and personal interest in the business.

Till today, the exact particulars of the deal agreed with Malaysia, and how Zimbabwe Airways became a beneficiary remain clouded in secrecy, with several indications that some dirty deals went on.

A report carried by this publication yesterday detailed massive irregularities surrounding a deal with DIDG which began during Mugabe’s tenure. Summarily, security clearances done by the government failed to establish, or ignored the credit standing of the directors of the company, reputation, and ability to raise promised funds.

Documents seen by Khuluma Afrika show massive contradictions between the particulars reported by the partners in this deal, and what they offered. In some reports, the public has been told that Zimbabweans in the diaspora will raise the money in small sums so as to recapitalize the national railways. However, in documents sent to the former President Mugabe, the company name dropped South African banks as the sources of funds – claims which inside sources at banks denied.

Take me to your Gupta… (Gracepta)

The links between several members of the firm and Grace Mugabe are also stark, and investigations at this point appear to show that some interests or stakes are shared.

Last year, this publication carried an article about state capture in Zimbabwe, and how Grace Mugabe had dipped her fingers in all deals, tenders, and businesses in the country.

The minister early this year admitted that Zimbabwe had procured snow graders instead of road graders, among an array of several irregular deals.

An investigation by the Zimbabwe Independent established that the state procurement board had been instructed by the office of the president to award contracts to a company called Univern.

Univern was awarded several other contracts. Khuluma Afrika was told that Grace Mugabe had personally instructed the OPC to direct the procurement board to ‘do business with Univern’.

The irregularities extend beyond the Zimbabwe – Malaysia deal. In April 2016, the Minister announced that they had struck a deal with Austrian contractor Geiger for dualisation of the Harare – Beitbridge road.

In May, last year the company was quoted in local media as stating that work on the road will begin ‘in months’, and that the company had mobilized funds and resources to start the work.

Two years later the deal remains a phantom promise. Government sources have stated that the company awarded the tender is struggling to raise the funds needed due to legal, logistical, and reputation issues.

The roadworks themselves were massively overpriced, and as carried in previous reports, there were several indications that tenders were awarded via instructions from the former first lady Grace Mugabe.

But that is just the tip.

Khuluma Afrika has now established that in order to finance the highway project, the ministry of transport is now attempting to circumvent tender processes again and award the Beitbridge rehabilitation tender to Geiger, or the Diaspora Infrastructure Development Group (DIDG).

Khuluma Afrika was told by sources who are members of cabinet that the minister of transport has twice told cabinet that he needs more time to solidify and agree on a deal to rehabilitate the border post.

This is however incorrect and false. Technical teams from the ministry of transport have twice done assessments and recommended that one company be awarded the tender and begin work.

Sources told Khuluma Afrika that the minister directly blocked this from happening and attempted to convince the technical team to re-think their decision and award the tender to Geiger or DIDG.

This is where it gets worse.

Geiger and DIDG did not tender for the Beitbridge project, and none of them conducted any form of due diligence. What they have effectively done is to throw figures into the pot, without conducting any kind of feasibility studies done.

To make it worse, the terms and tenure offered, especially by Geiger as well as those said to have been suggested by DIDG are several times more expensive than those offered by Zim Borders.

Khuluma Afrika reported last year that Grace Mugabe had a serious interest in the Beitbridge project through her South African associate Nikko Scheffer.

On the surface, it appears the minister has a personal stake or interest and is stalling the process with the hope of having his preferred parties win the deal.

A source at the ministry told Khuluma Afrika that there seems to be a hope “that everyone gets frustrated and leaves then Geiger gets the contract and then channels the payments for the road works”.

“Look, this one company provided proof of funds and have a contractor. It should be a simple set thing. But it seems the minister wants to use Geiger, who did not show funds and do not have a contractor.”

Follow the money

In January this year, the minister at the center of these storms announced that government would build an airport in Beitbridge.

The announcement has raised several eyebrows, especially given that the government is effectively attempting to spend money on ‘won tenders’.

The company recommended by the technical teams (Zimborders) in its bid offered extended terms which included fixing the water and sewer systems in the town, rehabilitating the roads in the town, as well as developing surrounding infrastructure beyond the border post, at no additional cost to the government.

Several other tenders, deals, and contracts awarded at the ministry during the time of Robert Mugabe are marred in equally shocking controversy, while nearly all the deals being done as we speak are pointing back to Graceland – which would not be a bad thing if processes were being followed…

  • This is part of an ongoing series of articles based on an investigation started over a year ago. More to follow.