Council caught offside on US$300k deal

Daniel Nemukuyu Investigations and Special Reports Editor
HARARE City Council, which recently announced its migration from the BIQ billing system to a new software developed by SAGE Group, rushed into concluding the deal worth over US$300 000 without going to tender, The Herald can reveal.

Apart from US$300 000 charged for the new system, the total cost may exceed US$500 000, including sending council staff for specialised training and other implementation costs.

Council condemned the BIQ system it had been using since 2006, citing alleged inefficiencies and high maintenance costs.

The local authority spent two months without a billing system until it engaged SAGE and prematurely settled for the company without the authority of the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (PRAZ).

Last week council posted on its official Facebook page that it had fully migrated from BIQ to a new system known as Enterprise Resource Planning System which would undertake bill printing.

It promised its customers April bills last week.

However, the city has been left exposed after PRAZ chief executive officer Mr Nyasha Chizu yesterday said his office never sanctioned the procurement of the system.

Instead, Mr Chizu said council rushed into implementing the new system before approval of the deal.

“I have noticed that council is rushing. The Special Procurement Oversight Committee (SPOC) noted that the new system developer was proposing an annual maintenance fee in the range of 25 to35 percent of the cost of the original software.

“The committee noted that the fee was on the high side and that it must be in the range of 10 percent.

“The committee advised council to negotiate with the supplier to ensure that the annual maintenance fee is within the range of 10 percent.

“Council was supposed to come back for review of the decision after negotiating with the supplier, which they did not do,” said Mr Chizu.

However, council’s public relations manager, Mr Michael Chideme, insisted that the procurement was aboveboard.

“We cleared it with PRAZ. It is called a proof of concept. It will run for a period while we go to tender,” he said.

Investigations by The Herald established that council, on its own, invited SAGE and another company called Promun Axis Solution for trials between April and part of May before settling for SAGE.

A council resolution was made and endorsed SAGE as a successor to South African company Quill Associates, which used to offer BIQ system.

Without following proper tender procedures, council has since adopted the new system and staff in finance and information technology departments have been working overtime to migrate to the new system.

Every Saturday and Sunday, officers from council’s head office and others from the district offices converge at Rowan Martin Building to familiarise with the new system.

In terms of the Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets (General) Regulations, 2018, entities must seek authority from the SPOC when the figures involved in the procurement exceed US$50 000.

Quill Associates, which provides the BIQ system, last month threatened to sue the local authority for breach of agreement after the abrupt termination of the contract.

The MDC-Alliance-led local authority, which has been using the old BIQ system for the past 13 years, reportedly requested for the installation of an upgraded version of the system last year, but later made a U-turn and refused to pay the US$75 000 annual licensing fees charged.

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