Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) chairperson Willia Bonyongwe is fighting allegations that she was also part of the rot at the tax collector and distanced herself from a company owned by her relatives that was awarded a dubious tender.
By Everson Mushava
Woodsbrand Investments, trading as Tavmad Contractors, was controversially awarded a lucrative contract to refurbish Zimra’s Kurima House headquarters in Harare and the company used Bonyongwe’s address in documents submitted to the State Procurement Board (SPB).
Woodsbrand had initially lost the tender to Rasams Electrical but the Gershem Pasi-led Zimra executive allegedly went on to give Bonyongwe’s relatives the contact to carry out maintenance work.
Rasams was assigned to refurbish Zimra branches in other cities and towns despite having stated that Kurima House was its priority.
The Woodsbrand tender documents seen by this paper have a Zimra water mark on each page, and two of the three people identified as directors use the surname Madzingira, which is Bonyongwe’s maiden name.
The three directors also used Bonyongwe’s Highlands home as their residential, business and postal address.
The tender bid was also accompanied by a letter from one Colonel A H Mhlangu, director procurement, dated March 27 2013 confirming that Woodsbrand had a running contract with the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA).
The letter claimed that Woodsbrand was carrying out maintenance work at the ZNA’s housing project in Dzivarasekwa in Harare.
Mhlanga said the company was doing kitchen fittings and floors and had been offering services as and when they were wanted since the inception of the project.
According to the papers, after being awarded the tender and upon discovering that maintenance work on Kurima House had been given to Woodsbrand by Zimra, Rasams approached the Administrative Court to challenge the revenue authority’s decision.
When the case was heard, Zimra was forced to produce Woodsbrand’s tender documents, which opened a can of worms.
According to the court papers, Zimra was forced to give Rasams the contract in a case recorded under P6/13.
Rasams was the applicant and SPB board, Zimra, Woodsbrand and AC Controls Private Limited were listed as the first, second, third and fourth respondents respectively.
Rasams had won the tender to carry maintenance work at Beitbridge Border Post, Masvingo, Gweru, Bulawayo, Chirundu and Kurima House.
“When the applicant received notification of the winning bids on April 14 2013, it was aggrieved by the first respondent’s decision to award Lot 6 to the third respondent and not to itself, the bidder recommended by the procuring entity and first respondent’s secretariat, it eventually noted an appeal to this court on June 10 2013,” part of the judgement read.
“Considering that the applicant won all five lots and should have been awarded the lots, especially Lot 6 which was its first preference, the court finds in favour of applicant.
“Further, the procuring entity and the first respondent’s secretariat had recommended award of Lot 6 to the applicant.
“Although a recommendation may be overruled by the body vested with the authority to make the final decisions, it carries some weight in the event of controversy arising afterwards, such as in this case. In this case, [the] applicant is on site and has been there for eight years and has proven capacity to perform satisfactorily.”
Bonyongwe suspended Pasi and several other executives on various accusations ranging from fraud to abuse of office amid revelations that over $20 million was looted from the revenue authority.
A forensic audit report implicated Pasi, who has since launched an urgent chamber application at the High Court challenging his suspension and the decision to haul him before a disciplinary hearing.
In his application, Pasi accused Bonyongwe of causing his suspension after her company allegedly lost a multi-million-dollar contract to refurbish Kurima House.
“The whole charade against me is driven by her desire to wrest from Rasams Electrical the contract relating to Kurima House, by displacing me. I dare say that here lies the heart of the motive and unjustified and unwarranted attack by the first respondent [Bonyongwe] against me,” Pasi claimed.
“First respondent is aggrieved by the fact that a company in which she is an owner with direct interest and control called Woodsbrand Investment, was unsuccessful in a dispute relating to the award of the tender for the renovations and improvements at Kurima House.”
However, court papers seen by The Standard show that Pasi did not stop Woodsbrand from carrying out maintenance work at Kurima House as he claims.
He allegedly awarded Woodsbrand the contract which was overturned by the Administrative Court.
Bonyongwe claimed that she did not know anything about Woodsbrand until the Zimra audit.
“I am told the owners are my relatives, and that’s probably how they got to use my address.
“Relatives do that often without asking, they give your address when they go to hospital, or apply for accounts with retail shops etc.,” she said in an emailed response.
“But a mere address does not confer ownership. So when you ask me about the [Zimra] logo used on the tender documents, I am sorry I am not in a position to assist you.
“It’s years back and like I said, the company was unknown to me.
“Even up to now I am not aware of any other tenders they have applied for, and how many they won or lost.”
Bonyongwe said she was not at Zimra when the tenders were awarded in 2013, adding the authority’s management, SPB and owners of Woodsbrand, were best placed to answer to allegations that they used the revenue collector’s logo in the tender document.
She said findings of the forensic audit initiated by her board raised several serious issues with regard to corporate governance, corruption, fraud, theft and lack of internal controls in Zimra.
“To want to dismiss them [findings] on the basis that a relative of Mai Bonyongwe years back bid for and lost a Zimra tender which is actually adjudicated at SPB would be very devious,” Bonyongwe said.
“I am sure everyone in the board has a past Zimra experience directly or through our relatives.
“But that would not stop us or impair us from carrying our mandate. The audit process has been very transparent, at every stage and the findings have been deliberated upon by the board.
“All decisions I am implementing are board decisions and resolutions.
“My suggestion is that people should read the audit report/findings, and objectively determine for themselves whether the report, including the Woodsbrand and Rasams findings have substance or not; or are in the public interest or not.”
One of the directors, Tavepi Madzingira said he was Bonyongwe’s brother.
He said they used Bonyongwe’s address because when the company was registered in 2007, his young brother Batanai who did the process was staying at his sister’s house.
Madzingira said it was the standard norm to use the logo associated with the institution floating a tender in order to establish rapport.
He said the tender document also became a Zimra document.
Madzingira said he was not happy with the Administrative Court ruling because he had won part of the tender.
“I did not appeal but I was not happy with the judgement,” Madzingira said.
A lawyer who preferred anonymity also said there was nothing wrong with a company using the Zimra logo as long as it was on the top cover only.