HARARE - Information Communication Technology (ICT) minister Supa Mandiwanzira has been mired in NetOne’s boardroom squabbles amid revelations that he had “irregularly hired” a South
African consultancy Megawatt Energy (Private) Limited (Megawatt) to audit the mobile company’s procurement systems.
The development also comes as the Nyanga North legislator has been caught up in other controversies linked to Telecel Zimbabwe’s acquisition and particularly his claims that he had a mysterious co-funder for the Zarnet transaction, and who was approved by President Robert Mugabe.
“Megawatt… has been mandated by the Information Communication Technology ministry… to lead the review of the above-mentioned contract (Huawei-NMBB contract) with a view to renegotiating some of the terms,” Megawatt chief executive Xiaodong Li said in a letter to Huawei Technologies (Huawei)’s Harare offices.
“It is our understanding that Huawei has received a letter from the ministry notifying you of this mandate and proposed way forward…,” it said.
With the issue under review relating to NetOne’s $218 million tender to upgrade its broadband services in July 2013, Mandiwanzira and Alex Marufu’s board have lurched into controversy after handing the $4 million job to Megawatt without State Procurement Board (SPB) approval.
Crucially, the contract was supposed to be registered with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s exchange control department committee since the “consultancy fees” were due to be paid into an offshore account.
According to sources, Megawatt’s funds were not only payable into an AfrAsia Bank Limited account in Mauritius, but Li had a previous connection with a losing bidder to the NetOne tender — and in the form of ZTE Corporation.
“Firstly, this company was selected or chosen without board approval and an appointment letter from NetOne, and secondly, it is supposed to objectively review our operations when it is manned by people linked to a Huawei competitor?” queried a source yesterday.
“So, this whole brouhaha about inflated base station acquisitions came about after NetOne managing director Reward Kangai, and company refused to honour Megawatt’s invoices purely on account of possible violation of due procedure, hence the current acrimony between the long-serving chief executive and Mandiwanzira’s proxies at the firm,” they said.
While attempts to secure comment from the South African-based Li were fruitless as he was said to be in China, Mandiwanzira stressed in Parliament yesterday that the NetOne board would remain seized with investigating potential cases of fraud emanating from dodgy procurements.
“We are not saying anyone is guilty, but the board is just doing its job (through the current investigations) to ensure that all the potential financial loopholes are plugged,” Mandiwanzira said.
In terms of their contract, Li said they expected the Huawei contract review process to be “concluded within the shortest possible time”.
“We look forward to… structuring a transaction that will be mutually beneficial for the government, Huawei and NetOne customers,” the Megawatt boss added.
Meanwhile, the multi-million dollar contract has always been under spotlight after a South Africa-based businessman Tafadzwa Muguti dragged the State-owned mobile operator and the SPB to court for giving the Chinese firm the deal without public tendering. However, the matter was later withdrawn, thus paving the way for NetOne’s expansion programme.