Ever seen a standard office laptop that costs US$9,000? Or worse still, a desktop machine that is priced at an eye-popping US$3,000?
Well, the Parliament of Zimbabwe has been stopped from procuring such exorbitantly priced gadgets from some shady Harare ICT dealers.
World’s most expensive standard laptop
This comes as Treasury has ordered the cancellation of a tender in which a little-known Harare stationery supplier mysteriously won a deal to supply Parliament with 173 laptops at ridiculously exorbitant priced.
Ministry of Finance permanent secretary George Guvamatanga in a letter to Parliament said the 173 laptops were being supplied at over US$1,6 million.
Another tender for the 79 desktops was priced at US$243,000 by Mid-End Computers, yet another virtually unknown ICTs dealership.
Guvamatanga noted with concern that the prices meant each laptop was being priced at USD9 264.48 and each desktop computer at USD3 076.61, prices which in any circumstances were ridiculously exorbitant.
Tender cancelled, supplier blacklisted
“It has come to Treasury’s attention that Parliament of Zimbabwe had awarded a tender for the supply and delivery of laptops and desktops,” said Guvamatanga in a letter dated 14 September 2022.
“Treasury notes with concern that these suppliers are charging USD9 264.48 and USD3 076.61 for a laptop and desktop, respectively. These USD dollar prices have been exorbitantly inflated way beyond those that are prevailing in the market and hence, are not acceptable.George Guvamatanga, Finance Ministry permanent secretary
“Notwithstanding the high prices, this tender award is in complete disregard of the Treasury minute dated 3 August 2022, directing line Ministries to ensure value for money for Government and hence, to rationalise all procurement processes with a view to operating within the confines of the willing buyer willing seller foreign exchange rate.”
Guvamatanga further ordered that the companies be blacklisted and barred from future Government tenders.
“In this regard and to ensure value for money for Government, in line with the Public Finance Management Act [Chapter 22:19] which empowers Treasury to manage and control public resources, Treasury directs that this tender be cancelled and the concerned suppliers be blacklisted from any future Government procurement process.”
But who is Blinart?
The laptops suppliers, Blinart Pvt Ltd, sells Chinese cellphones in downtown Harare as well as an assortment of stationery and printing cartridges, according to its social profile.
One Elizabeth Muchenje is said to be the company director, together with another unnamed person, sources told HourlyHits. The business runs from a derelict building along Jason Moyo Street.
However, it was not immediately clear what action would be taken for Government officials who presented the bloated prices to Treasury requesting payment. It also remains shady who the other tenders were and how much they charged.
Questions have also been raised on why Parliament was handling a tender worth the stated amounts, yet Government regulations indicate that tenders for goods worth over US$100,000 must be handled by the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (PRAZ).
Meanwhile, it has also emerged that the same Blinart Pvt Limited participated in foreign currency auction trade undertaken by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) weekly. This means the company had access to cheap forex, yet it was pricing its products at extortionate levels, a case of double dipping.
Economic experts have previously warned that the forex auction was being abused by connected individuals who were lining their pockets while still charging their goods using street rates even after accessing cheaper financing.
Blinart also participated in previous tender processes, and possibly winning some of them at such exorbitant prices.
Charamba defends Government
The issue has raised heated debate on social media, with many saying Government was losing millions to tenderpreneurs who used their proximity to people in position of power to profit from public funds.
However, Presidential spokesperson George Charamba defended Government saying Treasury had in fact stopped what was supposed to be daylight robbery of the public purse.
Charamba said Treasury had emoloyed its checks and balances mechanisms properly to sniff out the malpractice at an early stage before any funds were released.
“Why would you have checks and balance in a system except to protect public finances against such potential supply crooks who, incidentally are not being discussed and denounced by these predisposed discussants?” Charamba said.
“In terms of the public procurement continuum, Treasury has the final say, which it has exercised judiciously, period! The bottom line is that the Government of Zimbabwe has cancelled a corrupt tender.”Presidential spokesperson George Charamba
But Blinart is not the first Government supplier to be blacklisted. Last month, the Information Ministry lost money equivalent to seven (7) Toyota GD6 double cabs after it engaged a blackliste dealer to supply the cars.
The Ministy paid cash upfront for vehicles which were never delivered, amid suspicions top Ministry officials knew the supplier had previously defaulted on such agreements with State entities but went ahead and engaged him regardless. – HourlyHits