In this audio, the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee admonishes Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure Permanent Secretary Engineer Charles Mushota and RDA chief executive officer Engineer Elias Mwape for giving contradicting statements to the House.
This happened on Friday when Eng Mushota appeared before PAC together with Road Development Agency boss Mwape, to explain findings in the Auditor General’s report regarding the construction of the Matumbo and Kapemba bridges in Chama district.
The Auditor General reported that despite funds being released for the said projects the contractor did not move on site. The AG report was backed by correspondence between RDA and NRFA, but PS Mushota claimed that the report was not accurate on that particular audit because the contractor was actually on site.
“Maybe at the time the auditors went on site, there was some sort of miscommunication, but the truth is that the contractor had mobilised. This report says they were not on site, but that is nit correct. The contractor had actually mobilised,” Mushota told the parliamentary committee.
But committee member Kapembwa Simbao, produced a letter signed by the RDA chief executive proving the AG’s report, which left Mushota and Mwape short for words.
Take a listen:
“I am not sure if the PS is aware of the letter which I have in my possession. I am not sure if I should read it all… It reads: ‘Dear Sir, Construction of Matumbo and Kapemba bridges across Luangwa and Kapemba rivers in Chama district of Muchinga Province. Delayed payment of advance payments K7, 791, 084,” Simbao started.
“Reference is made to the above captioned matter, the above contract was signed on February 16, 2015 with China Railway Seventh Group Zambia Ltd. The Road Development Agency (RDA) wishes to inform you that the road from Muyombe junction to Chama to Luangwa river lot one, is now substantially complete with the entire 86 kilometers surfaced while the works from Matumbo to Luangwa river lot two, are ongoing with physical progress standing at 60 per cent with 35 kilometers surfaced.
China Railway Seventh Group Limited has not mobilized (this on January 21) due to non-payment of the advance payment of k7 million which is the whole amount. The advance payment application was sent to the National Road Fund Agency (NRFA) on June 04, 2015 (and it goes on to say) we are alive to the funding challenges in the sector and all that. “
Simbao wondered why the controlling officer was not saying the truth.
“But here it is, the letter written on January 21st 2016 and it’s very clear that that this company has not mobilized, that’s the word that has been used and there are some letters written, hand written things confirming the same, so Mr Chairman I don’t know what the PS is talking about,” wondered Simbao.
When Committee chairperson Howard Kunda asked Mushota to explain himself, the controlling officer asked for some minutes to liaise with Mwape after which he distanced himself from the correspondence.
“Chair, since that letter was signed by engineer Mwape who is with me here, can he just address the matter himself?” Mushota said.
Mwape then struggled to change the content of the letter he wrote.
“Thank you very much Chair. I think that letter, yes we did write to NRFA just to urge them to pay the advance payment so that the contractor can fully mobilize to site. I think that’s the sense in which we wrote that letter, that the letter did not mobilize so we were just urging them so that the contractor can fully mobilize to site,” Mwape said.
But the chairman quizzed him further: “Are you saying that they did not mobilize or they mobilized? What are you saying here? We need to get that but before you answer, let the AG come in.”
“Chair, such kind of responses should not be allowed here because there is a response here which is in writing. What he is saying then is what should have been written here, Chair we cannot accept that because these are official documents.”
After several comments from committee members and demands for explanation, Mushota took heed.
“Yes, I think Chair your Committee has told us and we have agreed that yes the fact that the treasury has given us the authority to go ahead doesn’t mean that the money is there, but at the same time if we are going to say that until the money is right in the account then we start the work, I doubt very much if we are going to implement this project,” said Mushota.
“I think the government has been on record from the highest office that let’s complete the ongoing projects before we embark on the new ones. And as RDA, as ministry of Infrastructure Mr Chairman I can report to you that that excites us that in the time to come, maybe these queries will be highly minimized, I submit Chair.”