Harare council fleeced of $1m by Chombo and associates

The Harare City Council has been rocked by reports that it was ripped off by more than $1-million by an alleged bogus company, which was awarded civil engineering work for the construction of the controversial multimillion-dollar airport road.

Shocking revelations have also emerged that a top government minister and senior council employees could be involved in the scam.

Harare city councillors have already instituted investigations into allegations that an unregistered company, Civil Planning Partnership Limited, was awarded the tender, worth $1.2-million, as consulting engineer for the dualisation of the Harare City-Airport Road.

The main constructor is Augur Investments, which will get prime land in Harare for the construction of the road. The airport road construction deal was done by the controversial Harare City Commission, which was appointed by the Minister of Local Government, Ignatius Chombo, after the 2008 elections, when the Movement for Democratic Change swept almost all council seats in Harare.

Earth-moving equipment has cleared parts of the area where the new airport road will be constructed, but councillors who are probing the tender said they had so far found no evidence that the company had done any work.

Documents show that by November last year the company had received an amount of about $700000. The special council committee believe another $550000 was paid between November and December last year.

It was during the reign of the same commission that council also lost vast tracts of prime land through illicit deals orchestrated by senior government officials and city council employees.

Chombo’s caretaker commission was chaired by Michael Mahachi and the other commissioners were an A Tome and an L. Marufu. The town clerk was Tendai Mahachi, and most of the deals signed during this period were signed by the two Mahachis, who are said to be related.

A check at the registrar of companies revealed that Civil Planning Partnership Limited is not registered in Zimbabwe, despite being awarded the tender by the commission. A letter obtained by this paper at the registrar of companies dated 18 October 2010 reads: "Please note that there is no record pertaining to the registration of the above-mentioned company."

Three weeks ago, the Sunday Times visited the address given by the company in letters to the council at 14 Selous Avenue in the city centre, but discovered that the premises were occupied by a non-governmental organisation named Penyai.

The paper called the managing director of the company, a Mr Musarurwa, who claimed they were still occupying the premises, although Penyai officials insisted they had moved.

"As I am speaking to you, I am at 14 Selous Avenue. I can also confirm that we won a tender from the city council and some of the money has already been paid," he said.

Musarurwa refused to say if his company had done any work so far but confirmed that most of the money was an advance payment.

The chairman of the special council committee investigating land thefts in the city last week wrote to the Tendai Mahachi, who is still the town clerk, demanding an explanation on the money paid to CPP.

"In view of the findings on CPP the committee would like to enquire from you as to the rationale you employed in choosing CPP. Is there any due diligence carried out on CPP?" chairman Warship Dumba wrote in the letter.

Harare’s mayor is said to have been informed about the issue and is taking steps to make a police report.