MAPUTO, The Inhambane Provincial Court in southern Mozambique has acquitted the Mayor of Inhambane City, Benedito Guimino, and five co-defendants of corruption charges.

Guimino was charged with maladministration and abuse of power. According to Tacia Simoes, the director of the Inhambane branch of the Central Office for the Fight against Corruption (GCCC), Guimino and the other municipal officials were accused of favouritism in awarding building contracts worth 6.3 million meticais (about 103,000 US dollars).

Of this sum, 3.5 million meticais were used to buy a mechanical shovel, and the rest to build classrooms. According to a report in Thursday’s issue of the Maputo daily, Noticias, the court on Wednesday found that Guimino did indeed have a discussion with one of the companies bidding to build a block of three classrooms but it found no criminal intent in the conversation, and accepted that Guimino was just trying to persuade the company to reduce the price it was asking.

Judge Agostinho Cumbana noted that none of the companies which submitted bids met all necessary requirements. One did not provide all the documentation required in the time stipulated in the tender, while another had a record of poor work, delays in delivering completed buildings and even abandoning jobs.

The municipality only had 1.6 million meticais available to build the classrooms, but eventually accepted the bid from a company asking for 3.2 million meticais to carry out the work.

Guimino told the court he had to intervene in defence of the interests of the municipality, because the company charging the lowest amount was precisely the company which had done unacceptably poor work in the past.

The charges against Guimino resulted from an anonymous phone call in 2013 and the trial had been postponed repeatedly since then. Guimino’s lawter, Graca Abdula, said she was pleased with the verdict because no evidence had been found to justify the charges against her client.