Transparency International Zambia (TIZ) says it is dismayed to learn from the Auditor General’s revelations that government facilitated a loan acquisition for ZNBC amounting to over $200 million without a concrete repayment plan.

Reacting to revelations of the Auditor General’s latest report on accounts of parastatal bodies and other statutory institutions for the financial years ended 31st December 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 yesterday, TIZ executive director Wesley Chibamba wondered who could have approved the contraction of a loan which did not have a repayment plan on behalf of ZNBC.

“The concern and dismay TIZ is registering is coming from the recent revelations in the report of the Auditor General where government acquired a $232,181,131.85 loan from Exim Bank in China through Star Times without a repayment plan. Our concern is, who approved the contraction of this loan which did not have a repayment plan? Our contention is that it is very irresponsible for the ZNBC Board and Management to approve borrowing of over 200 million US dollars without a concrete plan on how these funds will be paid back, who will pay these funds?,” Chibamba asked.

“More worrisome is the Auditor General’s revelation that ZNBC and Top star have failed to repay an interest of $2,321,811.39 which was due on July 15, 2017, on the acquired loan. This is a breach of contract and it calls for penalties on the part of the defaulter, which could mean paying more money or the institution losing assets. The public has always been wary about the kind of deal that ZNBC has with Topstar. There were allegations of corruption around Digital Migration by former Broadcasting and Information Minister Hon Chishimba Kambwili, involving ZNBC and Topstar. Now we are told they cannot pay back the loan, this is causing the public a lot of distress amidst other public financial mismanagement issues.”

He noted that the PF government had the propensity for acquiring loans for which they did not have a plan.

“As TIZ, we have always lamented about the propensity of government, through their institutions, to borrow wantonly and put the Zambian people in debt. We have suggested as a way forward that debt contraction be restricted through parliamentary approval and not just cabinet. There should be a law that governs debt contraction to the effect that for government to borrow, it has to be approved by the representatives of the people in parliament,” Chibamba said.

“We are therefore reiterating that there is need for specific legal provisions that mandate government to seek authority from the legislature before they can borrow any funds. We are also concerned at this growing tendency of government institutions not explaining to the public in specific terms how every cent of the borrowed funds is used. This lack of transparency around the use of borrowed funds is of high concern to members of the public. We are therefore demanding that the people responsible for engaging public institutions in debt be held accountable, through administrative procedures.”

He urged ZNBC to pay what it was owing ZRA just like other institutions were forced to do so.

“The Auditor General has also revealed that ZNBC has unpaid statutory obligations to ZRA and NAPSA amounting to K458, 824,474. This situation should be arrested by the people in charge of these institutions. The Post newspaper was closed on the pretext of unpaid statutory dues…More worrying is the fact that ZNBC was (as at September 2017) operating without a full board but an interim board of two people contrary to their board charter. In terms of governance, who is making the board decisions without a proper board in place? Chibamba asked.