A deal for the construction of a new runway at Harare International Airport was inflated by $13 million without approval, the Auditor General has said in a new report that raises questions over the handling of airport tenders.
Two officials at the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ), the agency in charge of national airports, accepted vehicles from a contractor, while a truck meant for the Victoria Falls airport project turned up at a gold mine in Bindura.
According to an audit by the Auditor General, released yesterday, a contract awarded by CAAZ for the rehabilitation of the Harare International Airport runway was priced at $22 million in 2009. However, by 2015, the price had unaccountably risen to $35.7 million, a variation of $13.6 million. This increase in the tender cost had not been approved by the state tender board and there is no documented explanation for it, Auditor General, Mildred Chiri says in her report.
“I was not availed with documentary evidence to show that the State Procurement Board (SPB) had approved the contract price variation,” the report says.
The true value of the runway contract remains difficult to pin down.
In July last year, CAAZ general manager David Chaota told a parliamentary committee that the original cost of the project was $5 million, but that $11 million was now required to complete repairs on the runway, Africa’s third longest at 4 725 metres.
At the time, Chaota said CAAZ was seeking a $2 million loan from FBC Bank for the project. Chaota had previously warned that the runway would be unusable within three years if no rehabilitation was done.
However, the 2012 national budget shows that government had set aside $7 million for the project.
On why the cost of the project had risen without SPB approval, CAAZ management, in its response to the auditor’s questions, responded: “Management will engage SPB for the approval of the variations as the project is still ongoing and we are hopeful that the approval will be granted before the completion of the project.”
No explanation is given on why the cost had ballooned by $13 million. However, CAAZ says the contractor and consultants on the project had requested for an additional $500,000 as “remobilisation fees”.
The Auditor General also pointed out shady dealings in a separate airport contract.
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