State drops abuse of office charges against Potraz boss

Prosecutors yesterday dropped criminal abuse of office charges against Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (Potraz) director-general Gift Kallisto Machengete, bringing to a close a case that saw witnesses refusing to take the stand.

Witnesses failed to attend court in the $1,4 million criminal abuse of office charge against Machengete, with the State announcing the decision not to pursue the case further, instead settling for a lesser charge of breaching the provisions of the Procurement Act.

The State sent a note to advise the court to postpone the case to March 25.
The presiding regional magistrate Hosea Mujaya could not hide his dismay when the request to postpone the case was put up.
 “We are very busy with a lot of cases and we want to work, why do we keep on deferring all matters?” he asked rhetorically.
Machengete has been in court since December over the criminal abuse rap, but the case has been postponed ad infitum.

He had applied to have his $1,4 million graft charges quashed arguing they are vague and failed to specify how he had participated in the offence.
Initially, Machengete was charged with criminal abuse of office and alternatively inducing a procuring entity to engage in procurement by a method that is prohibited by the Act.

The State then dropped the abuse office charge and sought to prosecute Machengete for breaching the provisions of the Procurement Act.
“It is submitted on behalf of the accused person that the charges, as read with the State outline are objectionable and liable to be quashed on several grounds.

“Section 178 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act provides that a charge can be quashed where it is calculated to embarrass an accused person in the conduct of his defence
“It is submitted that in the absence of anything in the charge particularizing exactly how the accused person allegedly induced or intended to induce Potraz to adopt the alleged prohibited procurement method, the charge is therefore vague.

“It is not legally tenable for an accused person to plead to a charge in which there is no averment as to how he allegedly committed the offence.”
Machengete was appointed Potraz director-general on December 1, 2016 and it was alleged that sometime in December last year, Potraz resolved to procure CVICs, which were going to be mounted countrywide.

The court heard that in February, Machengete wrote to the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Praz) requesting a waiver of procurement regulations to enable the authority to purchase CVICs through quotations because container conversion was a specialised skill.
On February 12, Praz reportedly wrote back to Machengete to procure through the normal tender process which the defence argues was vague.

It was alleged that Potraz subsequently purchased 24 CVICs from B Smart Business Solutions at $70 682,95 each, totalling $1 494 104, through comparative schedule despite the fact that the value involved required competitive bidding in terms of the Procurement Act.

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