A State witness has also testified that former Minister of Community Development and Social Services Emerine Kabanshi ordered the reinstatement of ZAMPOST as payment service provider for the Social Cash Transfer programme after the contract was terminated due to poor performance.
Kenneth Mapani, a former head of procurement in the said ministry, told the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court that Kabanshi was visibly annoyed with the termination of the contract between the ministry and ZAMPOST and directed for its immediate reinstatement.
The witness further said to his knowledge, if a contract is terminated from the procurement side, a fresh process has to be undertaken to re-engage that particular firm, which process should take not less than a month due various approvals.
In this matter, Kabanshi is charged with two counts of willful failure to comply with the law and applicable procedure or guidelines relating to procurement involving the Social Cash Transfer program.
Particulars of the offence in count one allege that Kabanshi between August 21, 2017 and April 26, 2018 in Lusaka, as a minister concerned in the administration and management at the ministry of Community Development and Social Services, did willfully fail to comply with the law, applicable procedure and guidelines relating to procurement by extending the scope of coverage of contract number MCDSS/SP/10/2017 between Zampost MCDSS to include three provinces and two districts under Social Cash Transfer programme.
In count two, it is alleged that Kabanshi during the same period did willfully fail to comply the law, procedures and guidelines relating to procurement when re-engaging Zampost as payment service provider under contract number MCDSS/10/2017 for Social Cash Transfer programme following the termination of the said contract.
When the matter came up for continued trial before Chief resident magistrate Lameck Mwale, Monday, Kenneth Mapani, 48, told the court that he was currently head of procurement in the Ministry of General Education.
He said prior to his current position, he worked at the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services as head of procurement.
Mapani testified that towards the end of 2016, the then director social welfare, Henry Nkhoma, engaged his office for advice on a draft Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry and ZAMPOST and what needed to be done.
He said Nkhoma wanted to find out how to proceed in actualising the said MoU into a functional arrangement for ZAMPOST to provide the services that were indicated.
“I advised that if the arrangement under the MoU was such that there will be recourse to public funds in terms of paying ZAMPOST for the service, then I’m afraid it would have to take the normal procurement procedures in line with the Public Procurement Act,” Mapani testified.
“However, if the intent of the MOU is purely for collaborative purposes without any recourse to public funds being paid to ZAMPOST for the service as a vendor, then the matter could be administratively handled without going through the procurement process and could therefore be dealt between the relevant departments of the Ministry collaborating those activities and ultimately the office of the Attorney General for clearance of such an MoU.”
Mapani told the court that he was later informed that the intention required a fee to be paid to ZAMPOST for the service.
He said subsequent to the clarification, he later on in 2017 received a request in specific terms of reference to engage ZAMPOST as a service provider for the administration in terms of payment of social cash transfer funds to beneficiaries.
Mapani said the request came from the director of social welfare.
He said in line with that, he proceeded to take the matter to procurement committee and subsequently, they wrote to Zambia Public Procurement Authority for authorisation, a no objection and guidance on how they would engage ZAMPOST.
Mapani added that a response was given to the ministry in form of a no objection to proceed with the engagement of ZAMPOST as a service provider given the justification that was made at a time.
He said when ZAMPOST submitted a formal bid to the ministry, an evaluation committee was constituted.
Mapani further said the procurement committee after deliberating, went ahead to grant approval for the engagement of ZAMPOST as the service provider for the provision of social cash funds to beneficiaries in Luapula and Western Provinces.
He said the ministry proceeded to sign the contract with ZAMPOST in August 2017 after the office of the Attorney General granted a no objection to the contract.
Mapani said later in 2018, he was availed with a Memo in form of requesting for advice regarding the indication that some payments for the social cash transfer were made to additional provinces namely Muchinga, North-Western, Northern Province and two districts on the Copperbelt namely; Lufwanyama and Mpongwe.
The witness said he advised that any addition to the existing contract required a process of approval through the committee and to engage the Attorney General’s office, in a case that payments had already been made.
“When my advice was sought in this instance, I did have a meeting with the director of social welfare then Mr Kennedy Mumba and what I indicated to him was to clarify whether there were already some payments paid to these provinces because from my recollection, I could not remember any time that I ran a process for the three provinces and the two districts arising from the initial contract that had been signed,” Mapani said.
“So I did advise director social welfare then that any additions to the existing contract required a process of approval through the procurement committee… I [also] advised that it was in order for us to inform the procurement committee on what had transpired and also to engage the office of the Attorney General. I was trying to ensure that the action being taken to include the provinces outside the contract is in line with the Public Procurement act number 12 of 2008 and regulations.”
Mapani said after writing to the Attorney General’s office over the anomaly, response was that the contract be amended which was done and was approved.
He said in May 2018, he attended a meeting at the Ministry with then PS Dr Liya Mutale in which there were misgivings on the performance of ZAMPOST and it was decided that the steps be taken to terminate the contract.
Mapani said after the contract was terminated, Kabanshi called for a meeting in which she expressed her misgivings in the manner management was not consultative.
“When I got to that meeting, I did note that it was a meeting to discuss the termination of the contract with ZAMPOST. In this meeting, the minister did express her misgivings in the manner in which management was not consultative. The minister was visibly annoyed with that action taken. And she indicated that there was need to immediately reinstate the contract with immediate effect,” said Mapani.
“Subsequently, in that meeting, she did direct the then acting Permanent Secretary Mr Alex Njobvu to immediately write to ZAMPOST informing the firm on the reinstatement of the contract and to immediately request the firm to continue with the program. The meeting ended with those directives.”