SADC Secretariat is rotting from the head, an Audit report has confirmed citing instances of tenders that are improperly awarded to foreign companies or the flouting of sovereign laws by executives hiding under diplomatic immunity.
In other instances interviews for short listed individuals who showed interest for positions advertised are cancelled willy-nilly to enable preferred acting personnel to continue holding the fort. This has led to the law enforcement agencies joining the fray to ascertain the veracity of the claims and, or allegations. Thankfully, the job of such agencies has been made much simpler by the findings of the Board of the Auditors report which confirms that corruption is rampant at the headquarters of the regional economic bloc.
The board of auditors noted that there is something fishy going on and ordered the Secretariat to investigate the whole contract for possible connivance. The board of auditors recently completed its assignment and passed its report to the Audit Committee who met this week up to Wednesday at SADC headquarters to consider and make its final recommendations to the Council of Ministers billed for next month (August). After studying the audit recommendations of the Board, the Audit Committee will hand over its report to the Council of Ministers who will pass its recommendations to the Summit of Heads of State and Government for final action.
Commenting under the procurement and contract management, the board of auditors confirmed that a Tanzanian company -World Link Travel Tours Ltd - was favoured as the terms prescribed in the prequalification criteria ITA 5.3 (d) were flouted. The audit states that the bidder - World Link Travel Tours Ltd- who was awarded a tender to the value of USD 20 million did not meet the required criteria stipulated in the bidding of documents as the bidder did not meet the financial requirement and did not submit the tax clearance certificate before the bid was closed.
The audit further indicates that winner World Link Travel Tours Ltd has not fulfilled obligations related to the payments of the social security contributions or the payment taxes in accordance with the legal provisions of Tanzania- the country in which they are established- or with those countries where the contract is to be performed.
The criteria included that the bidder submit confirmation in terms of tax clearance certificate and, or a letter of good standing from the relevant tax authority in their country of origin. The auditors found that at the time of inspection of submitted documents, World Link Travel Tours Ltd had only a tax registration certificate dated 1999 with no other document to confirm their tax payments and returns are in order.
The auditors state that World Link Travel Tours Ltd should have been disqualified for failure to meet the basic requirement by submitting the mandatory document. The auditors say non-compliance with the pre- qualification criteria constitutes non-compliance with the procurement policies and guidelines and this might lead to SADC dealing business with suppliers that are not law abiding. This clearly was the case as World Link Travel Tours Ltd operated illegally in Botswana.
As for internal control, the auditors found that the Secretariat did not exercise its duties to ensure that the information required as per the set criteria in the bid documents is adequately evaluated against the submission before proceeding with appointing World Link Travel Tours Ltd.
The auditors have recommended that the Secretariat should establish how the company was not disqualified for failure to meet the set requirement. Further, the Secretariat should establish how the bid evaluation committee failed to notice such a basic thing that the winning bidder did not submit the mandatory document.
In his attempt to clarify the matter, Gift Mike Gwaza, the Acting Head of Procurement told the auditors that World Link Travel Tours Ltd provided a tax clearance certificate ILA/UP 16/07/20/2413 issued by the Tanzanian Revenue Authority dated 20 July 2016. The Auditors state that whilst they note the management comments, the fact is World Link Travel Tours Ltd tax clearance was not submitted on time as it was issued on 20 July, 2016 five days after the set closing date of 15th July, 2016. They ordered for the Secretariat to investigate why both adjudication and evaluation committees did not disqualify the World Link Travel Tours Ltd even though they did not have a tax clearance.Ironically, Gwaza who has been identified as a player and a judge by participating in the due diligence process of confirming that World Link Travel Tours Ltd is the right bidder, is the one who assures that management will undertake an independent investigation and that identified internal weaknesses will be addressed.
Perhaps the most embarrassing matter raised by the audit is that none of the committees even the 5-man due diligence committee that travelled to Tanzania and Gwaza were part of, ignored the fact that World Link Travel Tours Ltd did not meet the financial resource requirement.
The audit findings state that a successful bidder for bid No. (SADC/Travel and Event/01/2016- was required to have a minimum average turnover related to the contract of USD 9 million calculated as a total certified payments received for contracts in progress and, or completed within the last three years, way above World Link Travel Tours Ltd’s USD 7.730 170.37.Actually, the company had reported in its bid document that its average revenue for the past three years is USD 9053 000. The Secretariat management defends itself by saying that the tender was carried in line with SADC procurement policy guidelines and the tender was serviced by the external tender committee comprising members from Botswana, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. They argue that the bidding documents did not specify the conversion rates. However, the auditors said that the management comments are misleading as they are not addressing the findings reported and neither disputing the fact that the average revenues of World Link Travel Tours Ltd are not equal or above USD 9 m.
The above criterion is believed to have contributed in eliminating all local companies who provide such a service and have served SADC diligently in the past years. Efforts to contact both Dr Tax and Gwaza were not successful. They failed to return the calls from this publication.