NAPSA sues Milupi, Diggers over AVIC contract investigation

NAPSA has sued Alliance for Democracy and Development (ADD) president Charles Milupi and News Diggers Media Limited in the Lusaka High Court seeking damages for libel and malicious falsehood over a publication that allegedly accused it of corruption and mismanagement of members’ funds.

The said publication was published on June 23, last year and was headlined ‘The NAPSA, AVIC deal stinks of corruption’.

The National Pension Scheme Authority is further seeking an injunction restraining Milupi and News Diggers, whether by themselves, their servants or agents or otherwise, from further publishing or causing to be published the said words or any similar words defamatory to it.

It also wants interest on all sums found to be due as damages, legal costs and any other relief the court may deem fit.

In a statement of claim filed in the Lusaka High Court, Wednesday, NAPSA explained that its principal objective was to provide social security to the Zambian labour force by collecting monthly contributions from the labour force and investing the contributions in viable projects.

It stated that one of the projects which it resolved to invest in was the Twin Palm River View Park Infrastructure Development east of Lusaka and that it invited the public to submit bids to undertake the development of the said project.

It stated that among the entities that submitted bids was AVIC International Limited, a company that has proven record in the construction industry in Zambia, and after evaluating all submitted bids, it awarded the contract to AVIC.

“AVIC bid to carry out the development of the River View Park at USD 25.8 million and after going through the tender process in accordance with the NAPSA’s internal procedures as well as the law on procurement, NAPSA awarded the tender for the development of the River View Park to AVIC,” read the statement of claim.

The authority stated that between June 23, 2019 and June 29, 2019, Milupi issued and News Diggers Media Limited published, in relation to NAPSA’s award of the said contract, which was awarded to AVIC, accusations of corruption and mismanagement of members’ funds against NAPSA.

“On June 23, 2019, News Diggers caused to be published the following defamatory words in relation to NAPSA’s character, which words quoted Milupi: ‘…Whatever the justification for this recommendation, Zambians deserve to know how that US $4 million will be broken down. Like Milupi is arguing, there is no way that AVIC International can forget to include VAT or contingencies in their cost estimates, only to be reminded by the evaluation committee. In the face of the public, this awarding of contract smells corruption and abuse of public funds. So NAPSA must not keep quiet and pretend like there is no scandal here. We challenge them to face the owners of that pension money and explain their grounds for this suspicious recommendation, not just urging the public to ignore the story’…” read the statement of claim.

NAPSA stated that in their natural and ordinary meaning, the words contained in the publication meant and were understood to mean that NAPSA corruptly awarded the tender to develop River View Park to AVIC.

It further stated that the words contained in the publication were false, published maliciously, and were calculated to cause and did in fact cause damage to its integrity as well as business.

NAPSA stated that the allegations that it inflated the bid sum of US$4 million and that a Chinese entity was preferred over American and European companies were false.

NAPSA stated that the publication generated various comments from the members of the public who condemned it in a disparaging manner and that the said comments significantly lowered it in the esteem of right-thinking members of society and affected the confidence the members of the scheme had towards it.

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