Information Minister Kampampa Mulenga says if her predecessor Chishimba Kambwili was clever, he should have recorded President Edgar Lungu giving orders to single Star Times for the controversial Digital Migration contract.
But Mulenga has admitted that the Digital Migration contract was not subjected to competitive bidding before being awarded to Star Times of China, adding that there was no law that stopped single sourcing.
Last week, the Auditor General revealed that government, through ZNBC contracted a US$273 million loan from Exim Bank of China to finance phase two and three of the Digital Migration project, without a repayment plan.
Kambwili then added his revelation that President Lungu personally phoned the Ministry of Information controlling officer and ordered him to single source Star Times, after the Head of State had already given orders to the Zambia Public Procurement Authority (ZPPA) not to object.
“When I left for South Africa, the President called the one who was acting permanent secretary, his substantive position is director of planning, Mr Kaluba. He called him and directed him that ‘stop whatever you are doing at Ibis Gardens and single source Star Times’. When I came back from South Africa with my PS, the PS came to my office with the acting PS and said ‘sir, there was an instruction from the President, I want the acting PS to brief you’. Then he told me, ‘I was called by the President and he told me to stop working on the tender document and single source Star Times’. And I told him, ‘I do not receive instructions bottom up. I receive instructions up to bottom. If the President wants to do this, he should have called me to give me the instruction for me to come and tell the PS and the PS tells the other people but I cannot receive an instruction through you the acting PS. My instruction is that go ahead with what you are doing until the President speaks to me’,” explained Kambwili.
“Instead of the President speaking to me, he never called me, he called the [substantive] PS and went and told him, ‘you are the controlling officer, I have given that instruction and follow my instruction’. The PS came back to me and said ‘even the President has called me and given the instruction. I told him, ‘go ahead but do not involve me in this because I do not subscribe to this issue of single sourcing because this is why Dora [Siliya] found herself in problems under the [airport] radar [case]. So I said ‘I will not get involved’.”
But Mulenga told News Diggers! in an interview that if Kambwili was clever, he would have had recordings of the Head of State.
“First and foremost, let me make it clear that in our laws single sourcing is not illegal as long as ZPPA gives out a no objection. Then the President does not run the Ministry of Information, secondly, honourable Kambwili should have relayed the way he’s courageously relaying this information when he was minister of information to members of the public. What Honourable Kambwili is saying it not true, if he has facts then let him lay it before the Anti-Corruption Commission, he should stop going to the media circulating lies. Let him bring facts, and since he’s very clever he should have had a recording or he should have a written concert from the President who he says had instructed to single source,” Mulenga said.
“The President is not involved in this at all, how does the whole lot of the President come and get involved in a contract? It is not possible, we know every well…and this is what government has been explaining on the procedures when contracts are awarded, ministers are not involved, the President is not involved. It’s the controlling officers who are involved and there is a procedure in how a contract is awarded to a company or an institution. So to come and say the President sanctioned an acting PS…then he (Kambwili) was an incompetent minister.”
Mulenga admitted that the contract was single sourced, but explained that there were some reasons on which government based the decision to award the contract to Star Times without subjecting the tender to competitive bidding.
“As I told you, single sourcing is not illegal and there were reasons why [we single sourced], actually there were no 12 companies, there was just Huawei and Huawei is specifically doing Telecoms, this is Television. Already the phase one which he had constituted was already done by Star Times and there was money owed to Star Times. So for him to come and say that Topstar was single sourced because of this and that is not true. We have had problems in other African countries where they have failed to migrate so we needed something like Topstar, this is a huge company and has a lot of experience in terms of digital migration so that is why there was the no objection [for single sourcing],” Mulenga explained.
“So it’s just shameful that he (Kambwili) sat in that ministry and can begin to come and offload whatever, he is just showing that he cannot be trusted. It is honourable Kambwili in 2015 that came on every platform and defended government, so why talk now? That means that when he was on those rallies he was telling lies.”
Meanwhile, Mulenga disclosed that government has not yet met the set conditions for the Exim Bank of China loan, adding that the money had not yet been surrendered.
“And let me also make this very clear, the K273 million they are talking about is neither here nor there because we haven’t met the conditions of the loan agreement so the money has not even been disbursed, so where is the corruption? Who has eaten the money because the money has not even come to the contractor,” explained Mulenga.
“If the K273 million was paid out already it would have been a different story but can Honourable Kambwili say who has eaten the K273 million because we are still looking at the conditions of the agreement for the loan, of which the money has not been given. So who has eaten the money because he says money exchanged hands but where, who and how? Can you eat something which you don’t have? This information can be verified at the Ministry if Information and that money whenever its available it’s not even going to government coffers, it will go to Star Times.”