FORMER ZamPost Postmaster general MacPherson Chanda says the corporation received K98 million against the K335 million which he and his colleagues are alleged to have stolen.
The Fast Track Economic and Financial Crimes Court recently found Chanda and two others with a case to answer in all the 13 counts of theft by public servant involving over K300 million.
This is a case in which Chanda, Best Mwaichi and Isaac Kamwimba are charged with alleged corrupt practices involving over K300 million.
The trio, in their capacities as postmaster general, director of finance and director of operations, respectively, allegedly unlawfully diverted social cash transfer funds amounting to K335,108,834.00 without lawful authority.
Chanda opened his defence in Ndola, Friday, before magistrate Kaunda Sakwanda who is handling the case.
He told the court that according to the contract signed between ZamPost and the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services (MCDSS), the Ministry’s first responsibility was to avail Payment Schedules of beneficiaries to ZamPost in a timely manner and ZamPost’s obligation was to pay the beneficiaries within 72 hours in line with those Payment Schedules or Instructions.
Chanda said the payment schedules which were the only instructions on which basis ZamPost could pay were delayed and sent to ZamPost by the Ministry several weeks after the Ministry had sent funds to ZamPost.
He told the Court that the first transfer of social cash transfer funds amounting K27.3 million was received by ZamPost on September 28, 2017.
“As a result, the Ministry only sent the payment schedules one month later at the month-end of October 2017. During this period when payment schedules were not available, social cash transfer funds sent to ZamPost were not payable to any beneficiary as there were no payment instructions for ZamPost to know who the beneficiaries were. Pending receipt of the payment instructions, ZamPost Management decided to move the funds from the Corporation’s main operations account and placed them into a 7-days fixed deposit account,” Chanda said.
“… after funds matured, the funds reverted to ZamPost with interest and since payment schedules were still not available, Management decided to roll – over the funds into another 7 days fixed deposit [account] until the payment schedules or instructions were received.”
Chanda told the Court that when the payment schedules were finally received, it was observed that against the funding of K27 million, the payable amount from the schedules sent by the Ministry was only K13 million, which left excess funds of K14 million.
“ZamPost Management therefore distributed K13 million to the paying Post Offices and transferred the K14 million excess from its main operations account into a 14-day fixed deposit. On 14th December, 2017, ZamPost received additional funds amounting to K64.6 million from the Ministry but the funds were not accompanied by payment schedules which were only made available a month later in January 2018,” he told the court.
Chanda said during this period, given the absence of payment instructions for beneficiaries, ZamPost Management decided to move K50 million of those funds from its main operations account into a 14-days fixed deposit account which was rolled over twice upon maturity as payment schedules were still not available.
He told the court that ZamPost was, therefore, in custody of social cash transfer funds whose payments to beneficiaries could not be made for over two months.
The accused further told the court that the decisions made to place funds did not delay payments to or deprive any beneficiaries as the placements were made in the absence of schedules which delayed for as long as two and 1/2 months.
He said when ZamPost had custody of funds pending receipt of schedules, there was no legal prohibition to place the funds into a fixed deposit account and generate interest income for the Corporation and for the beneficial shareholders being the Government of Zambia to whom distributable profits from ZamPost would accrue whether as retained earnings or dividends.
Chanda said no social cash transfer funds had been stolen at ZamPost and it was impossible to steal K335 million when total funds received during the period amounted to K98 million.
“I am not a lawyer but by placing the funds into short term placements, ZamPost did not convert or change the purpose of the funds as they were not payable in the absence of schedules whether they remained on the main operations account or placed in the 7 to 14 days fixed deposit accounts,” said Chanda.
Defence in the matter continues.