FORMER Community Development and Social Services minister Emerine Kabanshi has been found with a case to answer in a case where she is charged with willful failure to comply with the law and applicable procedure or guidelines relating to procurement involving the Social Cash Transfer (SCT) programme.
Chief Resident Magistrate Lameck Mwale put Kabanshi on her defence on Wednesday after finding that a prima facie case has been made out against her in respect of both charges.
In this matter, it is alleged 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, willfully failed 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 wilfully failed 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.
The State closed its case in December, last year, after calling 11 witnesses to testify in the matter.
And when the matter came up for ruling on case or no case to answer, Magistrate Mwale found Kabanshi with a case to answer in respect of both counts and accordingly put her on her defence.
“I have carefully considered the evidence adduced by the prosecution against the accused in this matter as well as the detailed submissions by both the defence as well as the State and find that a prima facie case has been made out against the accused in respect of both count one and count two sufficiently to warrant this court to put her on her defence. I find the accused with a case to answer in respect of both counts and I accordingly put her on her defence in respect, thereof,” Magistrate Mwale ruled.
At this point, Kabanshi’s lawyer Jonas Zimba informed the Court that the accused would give unsworn evidence and would also call four witnesses.
He, however, said the defence was not ready to proceed yesterday and as such were applying that the matter be adjourned for Kabanshi’s defence.
The State had no objection.
The matter comes up on March 10, this year, for defence.
Previously, Victor Mutantabowa, the arresting officer in the matter, testified that on September 20, 2018, ACC received a report of alleged corrupt practices and mismanagement of a SCT programme under the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services.
He said the allegations were against an officer at the said Ministry and ZAMPOST.
Mutantabowa said to that effect, a joint investigations team was set up comprising himself, another investigations officer at the ACC and another from the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC).
The officer said it was established that there was a contract signed between the Ministry of Community Development and ZAMPOST on August 21, 2017, which was marked as contract number MCDSS/SP/10/2017.
He said the contract signed with ZAMPOST was such that ZAMPOST was going to act as an agent for the Ministry of Community Development in paying Social Cash Transfer on behalf of the Ministry.
Mutantabowa said that the contract had some special conditions indicating that ZAMPOST would have to pay beneficiaries of the Social Cash Transfer on behalf of the Ministry in line with instructions received from the ministry in all districts of Luapula and Western Provinces, among other responsibilities and obligations.
“The second one was that ZAMPOST was to manage the process of payments and to ensure that the payments are effected within 72 hours of receipt of funds from the Ministry. ZAMPOST was to also avail monthly reports to the Ministry by the 14th day of the following month, among others,” he said.
Mutantabowa said that disbursement of funds under the Social Cash Transfer programme commenced with the first disbursement being for the July/August, 2017, circle, the amount being over K29 million.
He added that the said amount included the commission for ZAMPOST of about K2 million.
Mutantabowa further said the disbursement was made by the Ministry of Community Development to ZAMPOST on September 28, 2017, with the scope of coverage being for Luapula and Western provinces, according to the contract.
He, however, said investigations revealed that after the disbursement was made, there were challenges on ZAMPOST’s end in paying the funds to beneficiaries.
Mutantabowa said that apart from funds being delayed, some beneficiaries were walking long distances to get their funds while others could not get the money entitled to them.
“The first challenge was that these funds were delayed. According to the contract, funds were supposed to be paid within 72 hours. However, these funds were not paid within the stipulated time of 72 hours by ZAMPOST. It was established that part of the reason was that ZAMPOST would put these funds in a fixed deposit account to earn interest for seven days,” he said.
“The implication of that was that the beneficiaries would not receive payment within 72 hours because funds were committed to a fixed deposit account for seven days.”
Mutantabowa said that the challenges were brought to the attention of the Ministry, in particular the permanent secretary at that time, Reverend Howard Sikwela.
The witness, however, added that while there were these challenges in executing these payments, the then ZAMPOST Postmaster general McPherson Chanda wrote a letter addressed to Rev Sikwela, advising the PS that ZAMPOST was ready to pay social cash transfer in Northern, Muchinga, North-Western and two districts on the Copperbelt Province namely Mpongwe and Masaiti (Lifwanyama).
Mutantabowa said their investigations further established that when Rev Sikwela received the letter, he met Kabanshi, who was the then Minister of Community Development, to advise her that the said provinces listed were not covered under the scope of contract signed with ZAMPOST.
He, however, said according to Rev Sikwela, his (Sikwela’s) advice was not yielded to and he was further directed to proceed to ensure that payment was made to the said provinces.
Mutantabowa said following that meeting, the Social Welfare director was instructed to allow ZAMPOST to go ahead.
“Honourable Kabanshi instructed the director for Social Welfare to process payment and he was warned that those resisting to effect that instruction will be dealt with as previous directors were dealt with. From our investigations, the previous directors were terminated in national interest because they opposed at one time or the other the engagement of ZAMPOST,” said Mutantabowa.
“After being instructed to proceed to pay to these three provinces and two districts on the Copperbelt, payment was prepared around December, 2017. Funds of over K69 million were disbursed to ZAMPOST for the September/October, 2017, circle. These funds were for Western, Luapula, Muchinga, North-Western, Northern Province and two districts on the Copperbelt Province. The commission which went to ZAMPOST was over K5 million.”