Zimbabwe’s Minister of Health Obadiah Moyo was arrested this weekend and charged with corruption over allegations he illegally awarded preferential contracts to procure supplies to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Moyo was released from custody on Saturday evening on a $2,000 bail following his arrest on Friday on three charges of criminal abuse of office as a public official, carrying a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.
According to prosecutors, Moyo awarded contracts for coronavirus supplies to Drax International LLC and Drax Consult SAGL, companies prosecutors claim received the deals without a competitive tender process.
“The accused acted contrary to or inconsistent with his fiduciary duty,” said magistrate Munamato Mutevedzi when deciding whether to grant bail. “The accused’s actions showed favor to Drax.”
In a separate offense, Mayo reportedly attempted to coerce the country’s treasury to pay for 15,000 coronavirus test kits being held at airport customs.
Moyo’s attorney, James Mutizwa, confirmed to journalists outside Magistrate Court in Harare that bail had been granted and that his client had no further comment on the matter.
His arrest comes less than a week after the Zimbabwean representative of Drax International, Delish Nguwaya, was also arrested for crimes related to the alleged scheme. The company, based in the United Arab Emirates, has denied all the allegations.
“Most of the articles published on the media are falsehood regarding Drax International LLC,” the company said in an emailed statement to Reuters. “Goods regarding COVID-19 emergency response … have been delivered and no payment has been made by authorities in Zimbabwe.”
Following Moyo’s arrest, the president of Zimbabwe College of Public Health Physicians, Dr. Nyika Mahachi, expressed his concern about a wider misappropriation of coronavirus-related funds.
“This is an unfortunate development. As an apolitical association, it is our interest in public health to ensure that resources that are allocated for COVID-19 response, health services, or public services in general are used in a transparent and fair manner,” he said in a statement. “What we look forward to is a full understanding of the investigation of what really transpired to ensure that the culprits are brought to book, whoever they are.”
Zimbabwe is not the only African country to have allegedly faced corruption by senior health officials during the coronavirus pandemic. This month, Kenya’s Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe publicly revealed that his ministry was infested with widespread corruption and pledged an aggressive crackdown. According to Kagwe, millions of dollars worth of medical supplies donated by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma have gone missing, after health officials worked with criminals to steal them upon their arrival at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.