Imagine participating in a tender in which one of the bidders wrote the actual bid documents!
It happened to me once…
It happened in Zimbabwe when we were fighting for the license to operate. After the Supreme Court first ruled that the state monopoly in telecoms must be ended, the judges then ordered the Minister of Telecommunications to issue a cell phone license by public tender. The judges gave a deadline by which it had to be done.
A few weeks later a tender was published in the newspapers by the minister. We had no choice but to participate in the process. We wondered at the time how the minister had managed to prepare the tender documents in such a short time. Little did we know that the bid documents had been prepared by one of the participants!
On the day of the closure, there were four bidders and they placed us last out of the four, awarding the tender to a company controlled by a well-known African businessman. The minister appeared jubilantly with the winner, and announced a “new era in telecommunications”.
After the announcement of the bidders, I met with my lawyers and we decided to urgently petition the court to undertake a judicial review of the award of the tender. Few people at the time appreciated the existence of this procedure on a public tender.
Our lawyers approached the court and asked that all documents used in the award process be put under court seal. When the order was granted our lawyers rushed to the place where the tender adjudication committee had been holding their meetings and asked the court officials to place all documents including any notes of the members of the committee found in the room under court seal. It happened so quickly that no one had an opportunity to hide anything!
Months later when the hearing was due to start, lawyers from both sides were allowed to study the sealed documents.
Amongst the documents found was a telefax draft document of the original bid document. It had been sent to the chairman of the committee by the company that was ultimately awarded the tender.
__The date on the fax showed that it had been sent before the tender was published!
During the process of marking, our company had mysteriously been docked points to ensure it came last. When we showed these documents to the judge, he cancelled the license and licensed us instead, as we had actually won, even the rigged tender!
The minister in question accepted the decision of the court, and we were allowed to operate. However, she went ahead to reinstate the license that had been cancelled by a court to the bidder that had cheated so blatantly. No member of the committee including its chair was ever asked to explain.
Amazed?! You should not be. This kind of thing happens all the time.
To be continued…
Strive Masiyiwa is the Founder and Executive Chairman of Econet, a diversified global telecommunications group with operations and investments in over 15 countries. His business interests also include renewable energy, financial services, media and hospitality. Masiyiwa serves on a number of international boards, including Unilever, Rockefeller Foundation, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Global Advisory Board, the Africa Progress Panel, the UN Secretary General's Advisory Board for Sustainable Energy, Morehouse College, Hilton Foundation's Humanitarian Prize Jury and the Kenjin-Tatsujin International Advisory Council. He is one of the founders, with Sir Richard Branson, of the global think tank, the Carbon War Room, and a founding member of the Global Business Coalition on Education. Masiyiwa took over the Chairmanship of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) from Kofi Annan. He is also Chair of the Micronutrient Initiative, a global organization focused on ending child hunger and improving nutrition. In 2012, Masiyiwa was invited by President Obama to address leaders at the Camp David G-8 Summit on how to increase food production and end hunger in parts of Africa. In 2014, Masiyiwa was selected to Fortune Magazine’s list of the “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders”. As a philanthropist, he is a member of the Giving Pledge, and his contributions to education, health and development have been widely recognized. Masiyiwa and his wife finance the Higher Life Foundation, which provides scholarships to over 42,000 African orphans. In 2015, he was the recipient of the International Rescue Committee’s Freedom Award and was presented with a UN Foundation Global Leadership Award for the work of the Africa Against Ebola Solidarity Trust, which he chairs and helped establish to fund the deployment of African healthcare workers to combat the outbreak in West Africa.View all posts by Strive Masiyiwa