Members of Parliament on Wednesday grilled Local Government and Public Works Minister Marian Chombo over a government deal to procure fire-fighting trucks from Belarus.
This comes after the ministry’s permanent secretary Zvinechimwe Churu wrote a letter to local authorities directing them to set aside funds to pay for fire tenders the Ministry is buying from Belarus.
It also emerged that the prices for the trucks were inflated and critics say the planned procurement stinks of corruption.
On Wednesday, legislators demanded answers from Chombo and pressed her until she committed to bringing a Ministerial statement to the House.
Below is a transcript of the exchanges from Parliament’s Hansard publication:
HON. MATEWU: Thank you, Mr Speaker Sir. My question is directed to the Minister for Local Government and Public Works.
In view of devolution and decentralization, there are three levels of Government as in the Constitution; the national, provincial and local authority.
I want to refer to Section 274 (1 of our Constitution which states that these manage their own affairs.
I want to ask the Minister why there is interference from the Central Government shoving down the throats of local authorities, for example, yesterday to purchase fire tenders on their behalf. What kind of law is the Minister using to do this illegality? I thank you. – [HON. ZWIZWAI: She is there! She is there!] –
THE HON. SPEAKER: Sorry, sorry, sorry. Hon. Zwizwai, you advise the Chair politely. – [HON. ZWIZWAI: I am sorry Sir!] –
THE DEPUTY MINISTER OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS (HON. CHOMBO): Thank you, Hon. Speaker Ma’am and Hon. Matewu for that very pertinent question.
You started very well that we have three tiers of Government which are the central, provincial and the local authority, and they work in unison.
I do not see anywhere where the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works has interfered in the affairs of local authorities. – [HON. T. MLISWA: You sit on councils!] – We do not interfere. I thank you.
THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order, order Hon. Mliswa!
HON. MATEWU: Madam Speaker Ma’am, the Hon. Minister did not answer my question, she just skirted around.
However, my supplementary question is whether the local authorities have to follow the Procurement Act.
Why is the Procurement Act not being followed in ordering all local authorities to take their devolution funds and pay Belarus without any procurement? Why was this allowed to happen?
THE HON DEPUTY SPEAKER: Hon. Matewu, you are not connected. HON.
MATEWU: Thank you Madam Speaker Ma’am, I will repeat my question. My supplementary to the Hon. Minister is that the Procurement Act is very clear on how one buys any tender.
Why is the Hon? Minister flouting the Procurement Act in ordering every single authority to buy fire tenders from Belarus which they did not even ask for?
They are taking this money from devolution funds that must be spent in devolved provinces which make their own decisions and own affairs? I thank you.
HON. CHOMBO: Thank you very much, Hon. Speaker Ma’am and thank you very much, Hon. Matewu for the follow-up question.
We follow PRAZ regulations, and there is nowhere my Ministry has bypassed those processes. – [HON. MEMBERS: Was there a tender? Was there a tender?] – If there is any that you feel that we have not followed the laid down procedures, you are free to approach my office. I thank you. – [HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections.] –
HON. T. MLISWA: Madam Speaker, my point of order is that the Hon. Minister must not insult this House.
We are the ones who make laws, we know PRAZ and there is no way you can say that they were bought.
The question here is that you violated PRAZ and if you say that there is a tender, can you furnish us with the tender number?
There was no tender number in the report. It was a corrupt directive and it is difficult to ask a Minister who is also implicated in the corruption – that is where the problem is.
Where is the tender number Madam Speaker? When was it tendered? Where are the adverts? This is PRAZ and we are the ones who put the law.
An advertisement is made, and PRAZ regulations are followed. Cabinet is not above PRAZ, no one is above PRAZ. Can she tell us when they tendered the advert?
HON. CHOMBO: Thank you Madam Speaker Ma’am and thank you very much, Hon. Mliswa for the follow-up question.
As I stated before, my Ministry follows the PRAZ Regulations, and if there is any tender that you feel we did not follow instructions, you are free to write down or request for me to provide details of how that was done.
I thank you. (v)HON. MADZIMURE: Thank you Madam Speaker. Can the Hon. Minister give an undertaking to the House that she is going to come back with the fire tender documents, and also the Pomona deal …
THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: Hon. Deputy Minister, are you listening? Hon. Madzimure, please may you repeat your question? (v)HON. MADZIMURE: Madam Speaker, I am asking the Hon. Minister to furnish the House with the tender documents for the fire tenders that she said her Ministry is going to purchase on behalf of local authorities and also the Pomona deal tender documents so that Parliament sees whether they were in compliance with PRAZ regulations.
HON. CHOMBO: Thank you very much, Hon. Speaker Ma’am and thank you very much, Hon. Madzimure for the follow-up question.
As I said before, I reiterate that we follow procedures, and you are asking about the fire tenders and Pomona deal – that is too specific.
I request that you put that in writing and I will be able to respond to it. HON. GONESE: On a point of order Madam Speaker.