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Health Minister Locked Up!

Health and Child Care Minister ‘Obadiah Moyo’ was arrested yesterday by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) over his alleged involvement in NatPharm’s unprocedural contract with Drax International LLC to supply medicines and surgical sundries.

He spent last night at Rhodesville Police Station in eastern Harare and is expected to appear in court today.

His arrest followed the arrest of three NatPharm bosses this week on charges of criminal abuse of office for approving the deal with Drax, now known as Drax Consult SAGL after a name change, without following laid down procurement procedures.

Drax representative Delish Nguwaya has since been charged in court over the deal, which has already been cancelled on the orders of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development.

Zacc spokesperson Commissioner John Makamure confirmed the arrest of Dr Moyo but did not give details of the allegations he was facing. “I can confirm the arrest of Minister Moyo. He will be detained at Rhodesville police station and he is most likely going to appear in court today,” said Comm Makamure.

Sources close to investigations said Dr Moyo was invited to Zacc headquarters on Wednesday to record statements before he was released to allow investigators to study the documents further, investigations that led to yesterday’s arrest.

Comm Makamure said ZACC was looking at procurement systems and procedures of supply of medicines and equipment to fight Covid-19 to establish compliance with laid down procedures.

“We are looking at the whole procurement system for Covid-19 to establish systems compliance in handling and managing both procurements and donations. We have two processes: the investigation arm and another comprising our officers carrying out a review of the whole procurement system to ensure compliance. This is being done with a view to making recommendations on how it can be improved,” said Comm Makamure.

“Where a crime is suspected to have been committed, our investigation arm will come in. We have officers looking at the whole procurement processes in an emergency such as Covid-19.”

The arrest of Dr Moyo followed the charges against Natpharm bosses, managing director Florah Nancy Sifeku (67), operations manager Charles Mwaramba (78) and finance manager Rolland Mlalazi (55) who appeared at the Harare Magistrates’ Courts.

They were not asked to plead to the charges of criminal abuse of office when they separately appeared before magistrate Ms Vongai Guriro, who remanded them all to July 3 on $10 000 bail each.

Sifeku and Mwaramba are jointly charged on one of the offences where the State alleges that they disregarded a directive from the Health and Child Care Permanent Secretary to go for tender but instead fast-tracked an order to Drax to supply medicines and surgical sundries, on the grounds that there was extreme emergency.

DRAX had written a letter of interest to supply Zimbabwe with medicine and surgical sundries under a US$20 million facility.

The two allegedly withheld the tender documents for a month, while they were processing another order for the same company under the loan facility. They are alleged to have used the tender and order to award and sign a contract for Drax.

Drax is said to have put up US$2,7 million of which US$2 million out of the total amount was for performance guarantee after it failed to secure one from European banks. After realising that Drax had failed to supply the medicine and sundries within three months as agreed in the contract, Sifeku and Mwaramba allegedly deliberately failed to cancel the contract for non-performance.

On a second matter in which Sifeku and Mlalazi are jointly charged, the State alleges that early this year, Health Minister Moyo was approached by Delish Nguwaya and lawyer Dedja, who introduced themselves to him as Drax’s country representative and legal representativ.

Nguwaya and Dedja are said to have tendered an expression of interest, saying their company had the capacity to supply medicines to Zimbabwe through a US$40 million loan facility.

Minister Moyo is said to have asked the then permanent secretary Dr Agnes Mahomva to process the offer. But Dr Mahomva advised Sifeku and Mlalazi to procure the medicines according to the proper procurement procedures.

The State alleges that knowing that Drax International LLC had changed its name to Drax Consult SAGL, and knowing that it was previously known as Papi Pharma and had failed the vetting process, Sifeku and Mlalazi went on to offer it another order to supply US$13 351 071 worth of medicines.

On April 9, 2020, Finance and Economic Dvelpment Permanent Secretary Mr George Guvamatanga wrote to Dr Mahomva after noting that Sifeku and Mlalazi had entered into an agreement with Drax. Dr Mahomva, on the following day, said the ministry had not given NatPharm the green light to sign the contract.

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