The Sunday News
Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Business Reporter
THE Government is awaiting a technical report from Zesa Holdings to make a decision on the way forward with regards to the commencement of work at the proposed 100-megawatt Gwanda Solar Farm project in Matabeleland South Province which has been dogged by numerous controversies .
In an interview with Sunday News Business after a meeting with Southern region petroleum players in Bulawayo last Friday, Energy and Power Development Minister Advocate Fortune Chasi said Government was seized with the Gwanda Solar Farm matter and had since tasked Zesa to carry out an extensive evaluation of the project.
Gwanda Solar Farm is part of a series of national strategic power projects envisaged to close the country’s acute shortage of power, which is augmented by regional imports at a time the country is facing serious shortage of hard currency.
“It’s a matter that has been of concern to us as Government. We asked the new management at Zesa to evaluate and give proposals to Government regarding what should happen there. They (Zesa) are the technical people, they are the ones that contracted the (previous) individual (Mr Wicknel Chivayo) and so we await the outcome of their evaluation, which I understand to be imminent,” said Adv Chasi.
Mr Chivayo through his company Intratek Zimbabwe was awarded the tender in 2015 and paid US$5 million by Zesa’s subsidiary Zimbabwe Power Company for pre-commencement work at the solar power plant. The delays in implementing the project resulted in the loss of sales by Zesa equivalent to 500GWhs (Gigawatt-hours) and potential revenue loss of over US$50 million.
“We would like a final solution to the end of the (Gwanda Solar Project) matter before the end of April. We cannot keep it in limbo for too long, it’s a matter of immense public interest and we do need a pragmatic approach that allows us to begin to work on the project to produce power,” said Adv Chasi.
He said Government would only take a position on the solar project upon submission of a report from Zesa.
“After the technical report that Zesa is working on is submitted to us we (Government) will be able to take a position on whether another entity is invited to come and act in the place of the incumbent. It will depend on the evaluation that Zesa gives to Government as the technical people and as advisers to Government as well on power generation issues,” added Adv Chasi.
He further said Government has made significant strides to ensure no investor would be granted any contract without due-diligence. This comes after forensic audit into the operations of Zesa and its subsidiaries revealed startling details of how the power utility may have been systematically plundered and prejudiced of millions of United States dollars through shoddy contracts, corruption and corporate governance deficiencies.
“What we did was to make sure that we had men and women of integrate on the board. With regards to the issue of procuring services, I specifically asked the board to have an eagles’ eye on how projects are dealt with and also to go back historically to establish what has happened and follow up on the forensic report, which as you may be aware, I have now tackled it at Parliament. I’m quite happy at the details I’m getting from Zesa regarding their approach to projects. We also want them to deal in a steadfast manner with all projects and execute them with the zeal that reflects the seriousness of our power condition in the country and I think we will be able to get on top of the situation,” said Adv Chasi.
He also stated that he was satisfied with the work being undertaken by the current Zesa board.
“I’m quite happy with the performance of the body and the entire team at Zesa. At the moment they are really making every effort to ensure that we get some sufficient power and to comply with the detects of Government policy. We will soon be meeting them (Zesa board) just to review what they have experienced to date but we think the Government took the correct position in the appointments that it did,” said Adv Chasi.
He however, expressed dismay at the pace the utility was taking to attend to faults.
“There is a serious area, which we leave where there should be very serious intervention by the board and management at Zesa. This is the area of service delivery, very critical, the public has complained bitterly to me from all sections of the country. We need to respond to faults in a timeous manner, people need to be courteous, there is no room for back handers when people are supposed to do their work,” said Adv Chasi.