Transport & Communications Minister Brian Mushimba was yesterday grilled during the Parliamentary Committee on Budget over how his ministry, through RTSA, signed a concession agreement with Intelligent Mobility Solutions without availing it for review.
And the Committee was saddened that despite writing to the Ministry to have a glimpse of the signed document, the Ministry could not avail it for the reason that it was still considered as a draft and that there were still certain issues that needed to be revised.
The Committee, which was chaired by Mbala PF member of parliament Mwalimu Sinfukwe wondered why the Minister had earlier informed Parliament about the agreement when the document still had to be revised.
In his presentation to the committee Mushimba said the document could not be released upon request because it needed to be revised.
“The comment you make on the concession agreement that was signed between RTSA and IMS [Intelligent Mobility Solutions], indeed the Ministry was not in a position to share that document when the request came through the offices here at Parliament. And the reason is simple, honourable chair, honourable members, when RTSA engaged with the IMS, the genesis of this concession obviously is because of revenue-generation. As an institution that RTSA is, we feel it has a lot of potential to be…it is already the highest contributor to the Treasury, non-tax revenue contributor to the Treasury. But we feel that it can do more. When the concession was signed, there was a process that was concluded. It was done at a RTSA-to-IMS level and as a Ministry, we felt we also have a responsibility to review what was done so that we can ratify it,” Mushimba said.
“And just for clarity, when the conversations were happening between RTSA and IMS, the Ministry was fully represented through the Department of Transport. And through that channel, we felt that we needed to relook at the document when it was concluded. And personally, the concession was along the line of the Act because RTSA is an institution that is managed by the Act, your Act as Parliament, and there are certain mandates that that Act has accorded them that can be transferred. There are certain responsibilities placed upon them that can be transferred. So when I saw some misalignment, when my PS saw some misalignments, my Director [of] Transport, and many people from the Ministry raised some concerns, I immediately requested that the PS forms a team that takes another look at this concession assignment before being operationalized.”
Mushimba said after numerous concerns from his staff, he suggested areas for amendments to the agreement before releasing the document.
“That process, honourable chair, honourable members, is what is now nearing conclusion. We have had several meetings between the Ministry, RTSA, and IMS, areas of concern have been raised, suggested areas for amendments have been suggested, and those areas have to be cleaned up, and in line to the Act and in line to the expectations of government before this concession is ratified and made final for sharing with yourselves and any other government agency that may be interested. I have told my team that if those areas of concern that go against the Act from this concession are not agreed upon, we will terminate this concession so that we don’t find ourselves breaking the law or compromising on the overall objective of what we wanted to do in the first place,” Mushimba explained.
But the Committee argued that there was no way the Ministry would refuse to avail the document on the basis that it was still a draft when the Minister had already appended his signature on it.
In response, Mushimba who was also accompanied by his Permanent Secretary, and officials from RTSA, said there was no deliberate plan to mislead the Committee.
“There was no deliberate plan to hold or mislead the information; it was just that it was targeted at the time because of the certain areas that needed to be clarified around the whys. We occupy these offices fully aware that we are a service to the nation, we are a service to the people, and we would not withhold information deliberately or mislead or paint a picture that is not there,” Mushimba narrated.
The Committee further wondered how a company under Lamise specialised in plastics would sign a deal with RTSA to assist with intensifying road security.
“It’s very shocking that Lamise, a company that deals with plastics, can be an expert to sign a deal with RTSA. So my question to you, Honourable Minister, is did you actually still issue a statement in Parliament to inform us members of parliament that there were errors in this document? Because the picture you painted was that the concession was signed, sealed. Why did you choose to mislead us?” The committee asked.
And Committee Chairperson Sinfukwe chipped in and guided that the Minister had already addressed some of the concerns.
“I think the Minister clarified that when he presented in Parliament, he only picked certain aspects of the concession, I think he conceded on that. And he picked those parts that answered the why the concession? So, obviously, if the members feel he should have brought the full picture, that’s a different issue,” Sinfukwe said.
In concluding the debate, Sinfukwe withheld the discussion, saying that the Committee would wait for the secretariat to interpret the parliamentary Cap 12 before proceeding with the issue.
“In retrospect, we would wish that back in Parliament, we would wish that he presents a full picture. So, here we are now, and we asked for the concession, it’s not here. I think that the secretariat is helping us to find a provision in the Cap 12 if there is one to help this Committee. We are in a situation where we can only proceed on the basis of the law and for now, the secretariat may guide us. Honourable Minister, let’s leave it there for now until we are advised properly on that issue by the secretariat. If there are any other issues, this one is held on the legal side whether we can compel him for any addition information,” said Sinfukwe.