President's Office disowns Chivayo

HARARE - The Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) has denied allegations that it was directly involved in the botched $7 million solar power project tender, awarded to provocative businessman, Wicknell Chivayo.

Chivayo, an ex-convict, has so far failed to justify the sluggish pace of progress in establishing the solar plant in Gwanda, notwithstanding the fact that his company, Intratek, was paid $5 million by power utility, Zesa Holdings.

When he appeared before a parliamentary committee on Energy recently, Chivayo claimed the tendering process was done above board and that he had written correspondences between him and the OPC to that effect.

The OPC, which is responsible for all State tenders, was invited to appear before the committee to answer allegations that the tender was awarded without following due process.

The committee invited chief secretary to the President and Cabinet Misheck Sibanda and his two deputies Christian Katsande and Ray Ndhlukula.

Interestingly, Ndhlukula wrote to acting clerk of Parliament Helen Dingane saying the office was not interested in appearing before the committee since it played no role in the awarding of the tender.

The letter was delivered to the committee’s chairperson, Temba Mliswa.

“The Office of the President and Cabinet plays an oversight role in the implementation of government projects, be it ministries or State-owned enterprises.

“The office liaises with the relevant ministries to carry out its mandate.

“The alleged involvement of the office in the national solar project in Gwanda would therefore be at the level of the office engaging the permanent secretary in the ministry of Energy and Power Development and not beyond,” Ndhlukula wrote.

“The onus is on the Intratek management to prove that indeed they met with the chief secretary to the President and Cabinet or myself or both where this project was discussed. As far as we know, we have never engaged directly any person from Intratek.

“The person alleging this must confirm to the portfolio committee where and when he met OPC officials,” he further wrote.

Members of the portfolio committee had awaited the arrival of representatives from the OPC to no avail.

Despite Ndhlukula’s letter, the committee is adamant that the OPC must appear before it.

“The committee resolved that precisely the reason why we want them here is that they are responsible for implementation of government projects and we want to know what they have to say about the implementation of this power project.

“...Chivayo mentioned under oath that he wrote to the chief secretary of the President and Cabinet Dr Sibanda and equally that Dr Sibanda assigned the role to Dr Ndhlukula who was in charge of Zim-Asset. Since Chivayo said it under oath, it will only be proper that they come and respond to this in view of the allegation and the understanding that the tender was not given procedurally,” said Mliswa. “Parliament can call anyone to appear before it so it’s only proper that they come and say this before this committee. We will be writing to them to say ...we want you to come and update us on some of these issues,” he added.

Mliswa added that the committee had also received a letter from former Energy minister Elton Mangoma requesting to appear before the committee and cleanse his name after he was sucked into the scandal.

“We also received a letter to the Speaker of the National Assembly written by ...Mangoma. He was saying his name was mentioned and he was smeared by ...Chivayo and that at no time was he involved in the deal.

“Mangoma also said he wants to enlighten the committee of all the things he knows.

“So the committee has resolved to call all former ministers of energy at the time and permanent secretaries. A letter will be written to them to invite them to come so that we can bring this issue to closure,” Mliswa said.

Parliament, through its portfolio and thematic committees, occasionally summons members of the Executive and other public officials to answer questions regarding issues of public concern in areas under their respective purviews.