Chief Government Spokesperson Dora Siliya says government does not need Parliament’s approval to acquire loans because the Republican Constitution contains lacunas on clearly defining the Legislature’s role compared to the Executive.

And Northern Province Minister Brian Mundubile says the Northern Province Expo has already attracted investments, notably from Chinese and Indian nationals who intend to invest in a 200,000 hectares farming block.

Speaking during a Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Central and Northern provinces joint-press briefing in Lusaka, Siliya said Parliament is not supposed to participate in the duties of the Executive, adding that there is a ‘lacuna’ in the Republican Constitution governing the functions of the legislative arm of government as it relates to debt contraction.

She was reacting to a question posed by Diggers! on why government did not wait for Parliament to approve the acquisition of a US $30 million loan recently contracted by government to upgrade the Mulungushi International Conference Centre (MICC), among a series of other loans from China.

Zambia’s debt arising from Chinese loans in the year 2016 rose by 350 per cent from two loans contracted in 2015.

Government also added US$1.3 billion to the total debt stock in just a six-month period between January and June this year alone, and has already put pressure on critical programmes, such as the Social Cash Transfer programme.

“I think that we have been going through a window where a number of issues relating to the Constitution are under discussion. And I think there is a good argument going around that, how is it possible that if the separation in government of the Executive, of the Judiciary and the Legislature; and the Executive elected by the people is expected to perform a certain job. And when they perform that job, who should then provide the oversight? It should be the Parliament. And the argument people have been giving is that, if the Parliament is going to participate in a function of the Executive, how then will they supervise the Executive? And I think these are the discussions that are going on and this is why the Minister of Justice (Given Lubinda) has led the way to provide consultation that there are still lacuna’s in our Constitution, and we need to find a way to clear them,” Siliya told journalists at Government Complex yesterday.

“It’s not just on the issue of Parliament participating in loan procurement because the argument that other people are giving is valid. If you are going to supervise somebody, how are you going to do it if you are going to participate in their job? So, I think that is a valid argument people have been giving, but there are also other arguments people have been giving in the Constitution about commissions that might be sitting once or twice a year and yet they have to be paid monthly salaries and provided with other incentives, such as cars at the expense of the people of Zambia. So, to me, the Constitution is a live matter, and I think we should await for the Minister of Justice to be able to give us direction. So, well, I think that it is a lacuna and it’s not the only lacuna. We also have a number of commissions that have been provided for in the Constitution that Cabinet, that government is not able to manage.”

Siliya, who also doubles as Information and Broadcasting Services Minister, said there were some government commissions which were sitting and spending money without working, as a result of lacunas in the Constitution.

“For example, I think there is the Emoluments Commission that might hardly sit. Maybe, it will sit once a year or…but government and the people of Zambia are expected to pay those commissioners every month a salary and provide for their allowances and transport, and government is saying, no, clearly a constitution is created by us, the people. And we should be able to get back to the table and say, ‘no, no, no!’ This is a lacuna, this is not possible. We are not able to manage this and one of the arguments that have been given towards this question has been, and it is in the interest of the people of Zambia, that, if Parliament was participating in loan procurement, a function of the Executive, where will be the separation of government? Then how will Parliament be able to provide the oversight?” Siliya wondered.

“Because what should happen is that the Minister of Finance, by law, is provided for to procure the loans. And she has to go to Parliament and provide statements to Parliament on how government has performed. Now, if Parliament is participating in that process, how will they then provide an oversight to themselves? And I think that is a valid argument that people have been giving that, that will dilute separation of powers.”

And Mundubile said the Northern Province Expo has already attracted investments, notably from Chinese and Indian nationals, who intend to invest in a 200,000 hectares farming block.

“We have profiled a number of sectors for investment, including agriculture, mining, energy, port and harbour services and tourism. And in each of these sectors, we came up with some anchor projects. For agriculture, we are looking at the creation of a 200,000 hector farming block in the name of Kalunguswi Farming Block. In the tourism sector, we are looking at promoting Lumangwe Falls and Kasava Bay. And we are promoting the Mpulungu Harbour. We are taking our potential investors right through the province. It was only last week when one of our own investors has pledged to put in US $12 million in a hotel in Kasama. We have two more investors in Kasava Bay; one intending to put up a hotel, another one intending to put up a golf course. We already have teams from China and India interested to invest in farming, in the Kalungwishi farming block,” Mundubile narrated.

Meanwhile, Central Province Minister Sydney Mushanga said the provincial administration would succeed to raise the K5 million extra needed for the hosting of the Central Province Expo.

“I think I have made it very clear that a K3 million has been raised, and I want, on behalf of provincial administration, on behalf of the people of Central Province, to thank the private sector because all this money has come from the private sector. And his Excellency, the President of the Republic of Zambia, is going to be the guest of honour. This Expo is for the Government of the Republic of Zambia. So, the efforts we have embarked on is actually to actualise the plan that we have in place as Government of the Republic of Zambia,” said Mushanga.

“The government, through the Ministry of Finance, will also be putting in something to ensure that we raise the remaining K5 million towards meeting budget of K8 million, and I am very much determined as provincial administration for Central Province that, the remaining amount of money is going to be realised and actualised. There is a lot of good will from the private sector out there. I didn’t want to go into the private sector; those who have contributed and those who have promised. There are so many who have promised and looking at the budget, once they meet their pledges, we have no doubt that we will be very close to K8 million.”