School heads peeved
GOVERNMENT schools across the country have castigated a directive issued by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education requiring them to procure buses from three local coach-building companies.
In June this year, all public schools were ordered to submit their bus requirements to the ministry, and approach AVM, Deven Engineering and FAW Zimbabwe for quotations.
“…..schools are instructed to submit their bus requirements through their district and provincial offices. Provinces will consolidate the bus requirements and submit to head office so that a bulk purchase can be done and savings realised through quantity discounts,” wrote Sylvia Utete-Masango, the permanent secretary in the ministry, on June 24.
“However, the schools will make their payments directly to the suppliers. Head office will approach the following bus companies for quotations – AVM, Deven Engineering and FAW Zimbabwe. The ministry also conducted a due diligence on the three companies and found that FAW Zimbabwe and AVM are quite capable of meeting the needs of the schools in terms of provision of buses but there was not much activity going on at Deven Engineering.”
The decision was made ostensibly to support government’s Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim-Asset).
What has peeved headmasters and headmistresses in government schools is that none of the three companies is doing well.
Utete-Masango acknowledged as much in her directive that Deven Engineering had no capacity to supply buses to schools.
Deven Engineering is the coach-making unit of State-owned Industrial Development Corporation (IDC).
IDC has since announced its intention to dispose of its entire shareholding in the subsidiary.
The other two coach builders are in no better state.
AVM, owned by ZANU-PF Bindura North lawmaker, Kenneth Musanhi, is hardly managing to keep its head above water.
AVM was once known as Dahmer before it changed hands.
FAW Zimbabwe is a franchise of the Chinese state-owned automobile manufacturer, FAW Group Corporation.
Disgruntled school heads are accusing government and the State Procurement Board (SPB) of selecting coach builders whose ability to deliver is in serious doubt, without going to tender.
The SPB usually uses an open tender to identify winning bidders.
In this instance, after discussions with the ministry, the three companies were handpicked to supply busses to all government schools ahead of stronger competitors such as Quest Motor Corporation, Tata Zimbabwe and Croco Motors, which were not even considered.
Previously, schools would procure buses on their own, which means they were able to scout for the best money could buy.
The directive has also led many to suspect that some within the ministry or the SPB could be interested parties.
Those who spoke to the Financial Gazette said by restricting schools to the three struggling companies, government had limited their choices.
Indications are that some of the selected companies are importing the buses on behalf of the schools when the impression they had created was that they had the capacity to manufacture them locally.
There are already claims that it is taking up to nine months to bring the buses into the country and that by the time they land in Zimbabwe the price would have gone up almost twice.
School heads interviewed by the Financial Gazette also claimed that their institutions were being asked to pay at least US$100 000 deposit to initiate the importation process of the buses from China.
When the buses arrive in the country, schools would then be asked to pay for the balance before delivery.
Zimbabwe has about 5 752 primary schools and 2 312 secondary schools.
Manicaland Provincial Education director, Edward Shumba, said he raised the issue with his superiors, who were initially reluctant to include Quest on the suppliers list, but have since accepted the company to supply schools in Manicaland.
Quest operations manager, Carl Fernandez, said their exclusion from the approved list of bus suppliers puts into question the country’s tender awarding system.
“We are very concerned that tenders for vehicles that are readily available through assemblers in Zimbabwe are being exclusively awarded to few importers, who give no benefit to Zim-Asset or the 10-Point Plan.
“Assemblers have invested heavily on the basis of Zim-Asset and the 10-Point Plan in order to empower local suppliers of tyres, paint and glass who can indirectly be resuscitated as well. Instead (some) assemblers are being by-passed deliberately by various State authorities in favour of importers who buy nothing from local suppliers,” Fernandez lamented.
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