Caaz boss arraigned over criminal abuse of office rap

Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (Caaz) chief executive officer David Chawota appeared in court yesterday facing criminal abuse of office charges.

Chawota is accused of fraudulently awarding a €27 900 000 contract to a Spanish company, Indra Sistemus, which did not meet minimum mandatory requirements in a previous bid. Chawota reportedly engaged the company after the Supreme Court nullified the tender previously awarded to it in January 2016.

He appeared before Harare magistrate Rumbidzai Mugwagwa.
The State opposed bail. In opposing bail, prosecutor Zivanai Macharaga called the investigating officer Lawrence Mashawi who testified that Chawota is not abiding by his existing bail conditions and is threatening witnesses.

Mashawi said Chawota has been threatening senior employees against cooperating with investigations on the current matter.
“Workers now fear that the accused person will terminate their contracts if they cooperate with investigations. He terminated contracts of executives in 2016 after they cooperated with police in a matter involving him,” Mashawi testified.

Mugwagwa rolled the matter to today for bail ruling.
Allegations are that sometime in May 2013, Chawota floated tenders for air traffic control systems. It is alleged that one of the bidders which had submitted bids for the Radar Surveillance Systems, Selex Es, challenged the award to Indra Sistemas resulting in the cancellation of the award by the Supreme Court in January 2016.

The State alleges that Chawota persisted in requesting the direct appointment on Indra Sistemas, defying the Supreme Court ruling that nullified the previous award to the same company.
On July 27, 2016, Chawota allegedly implored the board to directly engage Indra Sistemas, his preferred company which had failed to meet minimum mandatory requirements in the previous bid.

However, the board resolved that a thorough and diligent technical search for companies that develop these systems be conducted and a tender be urgently floated thereafter. Despite the court ruling and the board resolution, Chawota allegedly continued to secretly engage with Indra Sistemus.

On February 14, 2017, the court heard that Chawota defied the board and Supreme Court ruling and presented to the corporate strategy and technical committee a letter for preliminary financial offer for the Design, Supply, Delivery, Installation and Commissioning of ATM system and associated equipment from the Spanish company.

However, the committee refused to recommend the proposal but resolved not to consider the Indra Sistemus proposal because of the risks involved in dealing with a company which had failed to meet minimum mandatory requirements.

The board instructed Chawota to consult with the Defence and Foreign Affairs ministries which advised procuring the equipment from UK, France, Italy, Czech Republic and Finland as Spain was futile because they had imposed trade restrictions on Zimbabwe.

It is the State’s case that Foreign Affairs, Zimbabwe Defence Forces and the board directed that the Procurement Committee develop a special formal tender for the Procurement of Radar Surveillance Systems which is premised on the strategy of reducing exposure of the country to sanctions.

Pursuant to his bid to engage Indra, Chawota allegedly met with Indra officials without approval at the Reserve Bank on his own.
He allegedly continued to solely engage the company and went on to request the State Procurement Board (SPB) to directly engage Indra under the pretext that it brought a funding package which Caaz had been failing to raise.

The State alleges that the award was granted wherein Chawota was directed to carry out due diligence before the engagement.
It is the State’s case that Chawota travelled to Spain in December 2017 to purportedly conduct due diligence in the company of Blessing Ngwarai but went on to sign a contract with Indra valued at €27 900 000.

The signed contract had other systems such as navigational aid systems previously awarded to Intelcan Technosystems of Canada and air traffic control communications system previously awarded to AME ATM which had not be cancelled, thereby creating a double award.

Despite Chawota’s assertions that Indra Sistemus had the funding, the court heard that the company failed to implement the project due to lack of funds and Chawota is now engaging the Afrexim Bank to provide funds.

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