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HomeNewsWater tendering scam cost Zimbabwe lives and millions of dollars

Water tendering scam cost Zimbabwe lives and millions of dollars

Zimbabwe continues to lose lives and millions of dollars in an intricate web of corruption and water tendering scam, a three month investigation has revealed.

While people have resorted to drilling boreholes in urban areas because of the council’s failure to supply water to households, investigations show that top officials gave water treating and pump tenders to companies that did not qualify.

By Problem Masau

Local government minister July Moyo forced the Victoria Falls municipality to scrap a tender for the supply of water pumps in favour of his handpicked supplier.

Moyo’s preferred supplier, a company owned by his friend, Paul Kruger, was US$2 more expensive.

The report comes as Moyo is the subject of a Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) investigation over another contract for the supply of water pumps in Harare for which Kruger’s company, Petrichor Irrigation, was paid US$9.3 million in 2019.

The contract was imposed on the City of Harare without public tendering.

The multi-million-dollar contract was awarded to Petricho Irrigation, which was represented by Paul Kruger in Zimbabwe, allegedly without going to tender.

The Treasury released the funds for the deal at the height of Harare’s crippling water crisis in October 2020 after Moyo presented a paper in cabinet asking the government to intervene.

This resulted in cabinet resolution instructing the Treasury to urgently release US$9,3 million to procure critical equipment for repairing the Morton Jaffray Water Works plant, which had been shut down.

Former legislator Temba Mliswa who reported the minister to Zacc argues Moyo and Kruger need to be subjected to a forensic probe to establish the veracity of information presented to cabinet, the pricing of the pumps, as well as the latter’s professional competencies regarding the scope of works.

“l bring to you the above case as a concerned citizen as well as an Honourable Member of Parliament in line with my duties and the expectations of those that elected me. Over the past few months, it has come to my attention that the Minister of Local Government was involved in a massive corruption scandal involving the purchase of pumps at Morton Jaffray Water Treatment Plant,” Mliswa said in a letter to ZACC chairperson Loice Matanda-Moyo.

“Sometime in 2019, the minister hatched a plan to fleece public funds through a proxy company called Agrico. Minister Moyo personally appointed one Paul Kruger as a consultant on water, ostensibly to solve Harare’s perennial water shortages and Paul Kruger went on to recommend that the water shortages in Harare could be easily solved by buying new water pumps. Minister Moyo then went with this recommendation to cabinet and presented an urgent motion urging cabinet to (i) grant Cabinet Authority for a special waiver so that the pumps could be bought without going through the normal tendering process. (ii)endorse the urgent release of $9,3 million from Treasury for the purchase of the pumps based on Paul Kruger’s recommendations,” Mliswa wrote.

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“Cabinet was fed with a cacophony of lies in the presentation that was made by Minister Moyo, chief amongst them was that this was urgent work which was supposed to be completed in two months. Cabinet was further told that it was necessary to purchase these pumps because there was a need to pump less polluted water from Lake Manyame, which would result in the reduction of aluminium sulphate usage by 25%, therefore, this would substantially reduce the water treatment chemicals bill,” he further wrote.

Zimbabweans face a growing health crisis as water contamination spreads across the country with the latest test done by The Upper Manyame Sub-Catchment Council (UMSCC) detecting a cholera causing E.coli bacteria in boreholes in Harare, Norton and Chitungwiza.

Upper Manyame Sub-Catchment Council is a statutory water management body in Zimbabwe established by an Act of Parliament; Water Act of 1998 (Chapter 20:24) under the auspices of the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate.

The alarming discovery comes amidst a severe cholera outbreak gripping the nation.

As at 26 February 2024, Zimbabwe had 26 189 suspected Cholera cases, 2 702 confirmed cases, 25 448 recoveries, 71 confirmed deaths and 485 suspected deaths, according to latest statistics from the ministry of health.

Boreholes in Harare suburbs such as Mt. Pleasant, Budiriro, Waterfalls, Avondale, Glen View, Lytton Industry, Greendale, Eastlea, Mbare, Eyecourt and Hopley are all contaminated.

The UMSCC issued an urgent public notice alerting residents to take precaution against the contaminated water sources.

 “The presence of E-coli indicates potential contamination of the water supply in these areas,” the UMSCC warned, highlighting the “significant health risk” posed by the bacteria, which can cause various illnesses, including cholera.

The statutory body urged residents in the affected areas to “not drink, cook, or wash with untreated water from boreholes or other sources.”

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UMSCC recommended, “Treating water with Aqua Tabs before use, boiling all water for at least one minute before consumption, even for brushing teeth or preparing food and getting boreholes tested by accredited laboratories to confirm water safety.”

Medical health practitioner Mlungisi Ndebele said the provision of clean water is key in addressing cholera situations.

“The country is experiencing a cholera outbreak because of lack of clean water, if citizens get clean water, it will reduce transmission levels,” he said.

According to its latest report, the decrease in rainfall due to El Nino effects is likely to exacerbate water scarcity in the country.

“About 860, 757 people lack access to safe water…..The decrease in rainfall will lead to a decrease in the availability of water. Water scarcity can force people to travel even further to seek drinking water from unsafe sources, which leads to increased diarrhoeal disease outbreaks,” it said.

Unicef said the situation is compounded by the alarmingly low rate of water treatment within households thus amplifying the risks associated with waterborne diseases.

“Nationally, 17 per cent of households travel more than 1km to fetch water, and only 3.1 per cent of households treat their drinking water,” said Unicef.

The report said the country will experience livelihood loss and disruption of essential services like healthcare and access to nutritious food due to the looming drought.

 “Zimbabwe continues to grapple with such climate-related disasters as extremely dry weather phenomena, including the anticipated El Niño-induced drought.

“The drought is projected to result in livelihood loss, water scarcity and disruption of social protection services and healthy food environments that support good diets,” reads the report.

The report also warned that malnutrition remains a major public health concern in Zimbabwe, with a quarter of all children experiencing stunting due to inadequate dietary intake.

Previously, the government was accused of failing to provide funds for the purchase of water treatment chemicals to avert a water crisis in Harare and stop the spread of cholera.

Residents are going for weeks without potable water and resorting to unsafe sources such as wells at a time when the city has recorded hundreds of cholera cases.

Contaminated water is a breeding ground for waterborne diseases, which can have devastating consequences, especially for children and individuals with weakened immune systems.

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