By Tererai Karimakwenda
SW Radio Africa
21 July, 2014
A committee investigating the project to resuscitate Harare’s water infrastructure has said they unearthed more corrupt practices and were unable to audit accounts in a multi-million dollar loan from China, because no such bank account had been created.
According to The Herald newspaper a loan of over $144 million, granted by China’s Eximbank to help repair the capital’s deteriorated water and sewerage structures, was deposited in an off shore account and all project payments are made by the China Machinery and Equipment Corporation (CMEC).
This has made it difficult to trace the funds for a council committee, recently appointed to investigate alleged corruption in the water rehabilitation project.
This adds to allegations dating back to May this year, when the Harare city Council revealed that some of the money from the Chinese loan had been diverted to buying cars for councillors.
In a council meeting at the time, the mayor said part of the loan had been used to buy 25 luxury vehicles, including Land Rovers. But acting town clerk Christopher Zvobgo offered a figure of 13 vehicles, after first stating that only 8 were provided for in the project itself.
In May it was estimated that about $8 million had been spent on cars for councillors, but the council agreed to establish exactly how much had already been spent on the project and whether overpricing was a factor.
This led to the appointment of a committee of two councillors and three experts to investigate the project, and they now say they failed to access any project documents to further their probe and determine whether there was corrupt abuse of funds.
Mayor Bernard Manyenyeni confirmed to SW Radio Africa in May that some vehicles had been purchased with part of the loan, and there was also concern over the possibility of “duplication” of budget items.
The Chinese deal was negotiated and signed for by the then Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda, and town clerk Tendai Mahachi, who remains in this position despite having been suspended by the current administration.
Mahachi had failed to comply with orders to reveal the salaries of senior council executives and was controversially saved by Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo.