Zvikomborero Parafini, Court Reporter
The Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbawe boss David Chawota was back in court yesterday facing fresh charges of criminal abuse of office.
Chawota was not asked to plead when he appeared before Harare magistrate Rumbidzai Mugwagwa who remanded the matter to today for bail ruling.
Prosecuting Zivanai Macharaga from the special unit prosecution is alleging that in May 2013, Chawota initiated a tender process for the air traffic control system through floating of tenders.
The alleged tenders were for supply delivery and installation of air traffic control, Radar Surveillance System, supply delivered and installation of navigation aid system, supply delivery of air traffic control communications systems and supply delivery of air traffic control training simulator.
One of the bidders who had submitted bids for the Radar Surveillance Systems, SELEX Es challenged the award to Indra Sustemas resulting in the cancelation of the award by the Supreme Court in January 2016.
However, the State alleges that Chawota persisted in requesting the direct appointment on Indra Sistemas of Spain to implement the country’s airspace management systems regardless of the Supreme Court ruling which had nullified the previous award to the same company.
On July 27, 2016 Chawota presented a board paper where he implored the board to directly engage Indra Sistemas, his preferred company which had failed to meet minimum mandatory requirements in the previous bid.
In compliance with the Supreme Court ruling for a fresh tender the board resolved that a thorough and diligent technical search for companies that develop these systems be conducted and a tender be urgently floated thereafter.
Despite the court ruling and the board resolution Chawota continued to secretly engage with Indra despite the fact that he is not the accounting authority in terms of the public finance management act.
On February 14 in 2017, Chawota went on to present to the corporate strategy and technical committee a letter for preliminary financial offer for the Design, Supply, Delivery, Installation and Commissioning of ATM system and associated equipment from Indra which was dated October 17,2016.
This was an indication that he had been engaging Indra Sistemus in defiance of the Supreme Court and Board resolution.
The committee resolved that the board should not recommend the proposal.
On Mach 1, 2017 the board resolved not to consider the Indra proposal because of the risks involved in dealing with a company which had failed to meet minimum mandatory requirements which jeopardized passengers’ safety.
The board instructed Chawota to consult the ministry of Defence, Airforce and Ministry of Foreign Affairs as the board was cautious about purchasing from Spain on the grounds that it is a member of the European Union which had trade restrictions with Zimbabwe
Om March 24 the Foreign Affairs’ ministry responded, indicating that it will not be prudent to consider procuring the equipment from UK, France, Italy, Czech Republic, Spain and Finland.
Similarly, the US and Canada has a ban on the export to Zimbabwe of such equipment.
On April 6, Blessing Ngwarai, the director of Air Navigation and Technical Services held a high level technical coordination meeting with the Airforce of Zimbabwe where it was agreed that CAAZ should confine the inquiries to the countries recommended by the Foreign Affairs ministry.
It is further alleged that on May 3, the Foreign Affairs and Zimbabwe Defense Forces, the board directed that the Procurement committee develop a special formal tender for the Procurement of Radar Surveillance Systems which is premised on the strategy of reducing exposure of the country to sanctions.
In pursuance to his bid to engage Indra against board resolutions, on June 5, 2017 Chawota without board approval arranged a meeting with officials from Indra at the RBZ.
Though the purported meeting was to discuss the acquisition of the airspace management system from Indra, the CAAZ board was not invited.
State further alleges that on August 11, 2017 at a board meeting, stringent conditions for Chawota to follow were set and the result be presented to the board before engagements with Indra but he did not pursue the board resolution as he continuously engaged Inndra.
Chawota through the office of the president and cabinet went on to request the State Procurement Board for direct engagement on the pretext that Indra had brought a funding package which CAAZ had been failing to raise.
An award was granted wherein Chawota was directed to carry out due diligence before the engagement and on December 20, Chawota went to Spain purportedly for a due diligence in the company of blessing Ngwarai and instead of carrying out due diligence, he went on to sign a contract with Indra valued at €27, 900 000.
the signed contract had other systems such as navigational aid systems previously awarded to Intelcan Technosystems of Canada and air traffic control communications system previously awarded to AME ATM which had not be canceled thereby creating a double award.
Despite Chawota assertions that Indra Sistemus had the funding, it had failed to implement the project for lack of funds and Chawota is now engaging Afrexim Bank to provide funds.