Transparency International Zimbabwe (TI-Z) notes with concern a recent example of skewed public procurement process for medicinal supplies to combat COVID-19. In a letter referenced “Items procured for Covid-19 emergency response under contract number NAT DP 04/2020: Drax International LLC”, the Secretary for Finance and Economic Development authorised the release of medicinal and surgical goods costing over US$980,000 which were held at Robert Mugabe International Airport in Harare. As rightly highlighted by other stakeholders, the prices of these goods are highly inflated, indicating a risk of corrupt practices that have been observed during the pandemic.
“Public sector procurement is one of the most significant economic activities of the government,” said Muchaneta Mundopa, Executive Director of TI Zimbabwe. “Value for money is of paramount importance, especially now when lives could be at stake because of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In addition to price gouging, TI-Z is greatly concerned about the lack of transparency about who owns the company providing the equipment. The company indicated was only established and registered in 2020 and has been linked in the media to political elites.
“Awarding such nascent companies government tenders without scrutiny and offering them preferential treatment is a major red flag for corruption in public procurement processes,” continued Mundopa.
Transparency International Zimbabwe therefore continues to encourage the government of Zimbabwe to take measures to mitigate risks such as hidden contracts, conflict of interests and price gouging of medicinal goods and services during the COVID-19 crisis. To this end, TI-Z recommends that the government should commit to:
- Maintain public and open procurement systems including online procurement, and beneficial ownership transparency where possible, with rapid, trackable and transparent procedures highlighting the cost of procurement, the grade-level of the procured materials and delivery lead times to ensure public contracting processes that can withstand audit and are responsive to the health system. These need not be complex matrices, but simple tools which clearly outline public expenditure in a fast, efficient and transparent way, and support emergency planning processes.
- Monitor, deter, and take relevant action against individuals and companies involved in unfair trade practices including price hiking of essential goods such as masks, bibs, hydro-alcoholic gels and food.
Muchaneta Mundopa, Transparency International Zimbabwe