By Wendy Muperi
Harare — Tenderprenuer Wicknell Chivhayo admitted Monday that he used political connections when winning government tenders and to push for controversial $5 million advance payment.
The youthful businessman was appearing before a parliamentary oversight committee when he named the ministers who helped him win the multi-million-dollar tender and the mega cash advances.
At the centre of the controversy is the $200m Gwanda Solar Project where Chivayo was reportedly paid a $7m advance before any work had started.
Reports also indicated that little progress has been made since the tender was awarded by a ZESA subsidiary, the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC).
However, on Monday Chivayo was adamant that there was nothing irregular about the cash advances or the way he won the contract.
High powered help
Parliament heard that he initially lost the tender after which he wrote to the now deceased Charles Kuwaza who was then chairperson of the State Procurement Board (SPB).
Chivayo also roped in then energy minister Dzikamai Mavhaire and the chief secretary to the office of the president and cabinet, Misheck Sibanda, to help reverse the SPB decision.
Explaining the reach-out to the politicians, the Chivayo said he was just a determined businessman, adding that the project was also his brainchild.
“If you have any queries you can go to court, but my approach was different,” he said.
“My approach was that we have a deficit of over 1,500 megawatts and we have three (bidding) companies that are all compliant and reputable. Why award one if we can award (the tender) to them all?
“That was my reasoning when I went to the minister. I needed his opinion. I said I have no basis to appeal. The project was also my idea.”
Responding to questions around Intratrek’s ability to deliver a solar project of the magnitude, he said, “The company had no experience in the solar business before being awarded the tender.
I have no qualifications
“I am not an engineer. I have no qualifications. I just run the company based on my background experience. It was not about me but my partners.”
Chivayo said after getting the tender, he went on to negotiate a payment deal that would see him receive $7 million for a feasibility study and pre-commencement works.
Using political connections, he further arm-twisted ZPC into paying him the advance by engaging the recent past Energy minister Samuel Undenge.
“I then submitted to minister Undenge that I have submitted a feasibility to the tune of $2, 1 million which they are reviewing but they are demanding an advancement guarantee,” said Chivayo.
“The minister said he would look into it and then consult his principles in the interest of the progress of the project.
“I was then called by engineer Gwariro a week later and he said to me that he got specific instructions from the minister that the project must proceed and there must be no delays. That’s when I received $2,1 million.”
Quizzed on my he would seek executive interference, Chivhayo said confidently, “I am a businessman, I fight kana zvhinu zvangu zvikasaita (when I’m in trouble). That is why I am successful.”
Following the ouster former president Robert Mugabe and media reports on the scandal, ZPC stopped the payments to Chivhayo while the company’s managers were suspended to allow investigations.
Chivayo admitted Monday that media reports on the scandal made it impossible for him to receive more funds from the company.