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GOVERNMENT will grill City of Harare officials over shady deals that potentially prejudiced ratepayers of over US$100 million.

Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Deputy Minister Joel Matiza yesterday said council officials would be asked to brief the ministry on the contentious deals.

Of particular interest is a water and sewage deal with a Chinese firm whose project cost was allegedly inflated by around US$100 million.

The city council quoted the deal at about US$144,4 million but a consultant engineer wrote a scathing report in which he said the value was grossly inflated.

“They come here regularly for meetings,” he said.

“At our next meeting, we will ask them about this and other deals and then we will take it from there,” Deputy Minister Matiza said.

On Tuesday, Harare mayor Mr Bernard Manyenyeni told legislators what The Herald published more than a month ago — that the deal could result in US$100 million of ratepayers money being blown.

Another controversial deal is a US$86 million project given to Augur Investments on Airport Road.

The project has been abandoned mid-way after the city realised that Augur had no capacity to finish the job.

Augur completed a section of the road and has quoted US$20 million for essentially dualising a few kilometres of road.

Observers have for years questioned why the project cost so much when much less money had been paid for far bigger projects.

The city also entered a murky deal with Easi-Hold of South Africa for joint venture management of on-street and off-street parking.

The city council is now operating its own parking company called City Parking, while Easi-Hold continues to pocket proceeds from managing parking slots in the most lucrative parts of Harare.

Mayor Manyenyeni told Parliamentarians this week that an on-going audit at the council would cover the US$144,4 million water infrastructure deal.

“Our expectation is that the current exercise will attend to the Chinese project bearing in mind that we already have the World Bank report on the contract,” he said.

City of Harare officials told The Herald earlier this year that they were not aware of the report by consulting engineer, Mr Peter Morris, which details the padding of costs to the tune of US$100 million.

Harare signed a loan agreement with the Export and Import Bank of China for China National Machinery and Equipment Import and Export Corporation to rehabilitate water and sewage plants.

Capital city residents will contribute to repaying that loan through their rates.

Town clerk Dr Tendai Mahachi and former mayor Mr Muchadeyi Masunda signed the deal with CMEC general manager Mr Yang Yinan in 2010.

Source : The Herald