Chief government spokesperson Dora Siliya says the admission by a Chinese company that it used falsified documents to win a government tender under Zesco makes sad reading.
Energy Minister Mathews Nkhuwa said he was not aware of the World Bank report and referred questions to Zesco, whose spokesperson said the power utility handles numerous contracts and could not remember which transaction was in question.
On Thursday, News Diggers reported that the World Bank had banned a Chinese firm called Jiangsu Zhongtian Technology Ltd (ZTT), a company that manufactures and distributes fibre optic cable, in connection with fraudulent practices under the Lusaka Transmission and Distribution Rehabilitation Project in Zambia.
The report explained that in 2013, the Zambian government acquired a US$210 million loan from the World Bank and European Investment Bank to increase the capacity and improve the reliability of the electricity transmission and distribution system in Lusaka.
On November 20, 2017, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Energy and Zesco signed a sub component contract with the Chinese company (ZTT) to construct 132kv overhead power lines at a cost of US$11.1 million; but an investigation revealed that the contractor won the tender using fortified documents, a revelation that forced the World Bank to impose sanctions on the Chinese firm.
Reacting to the story, Siliya who refused to be interviewed used Twitter to express her regret on the development.
“The Chinese firm’s admission of swindling government, according to World Bank report in News Diggers today, makes sad reading. We all have to reach far and wide to fight corruption, in public and private sector, so that Zambians get value for money. God bless Zambia!” tweeted Siliya.
Her followers wondered why the minister was commenting like an ordinary citizen instead of providing answers to the revelation.
Felicity Kayumba: “What happened to due diligence standards on procurement? You don’t get away with ‘makes sad reading’ as Chief government spokesperson. You owe us answers madam.”
Nazar Masau: “What’s even worse is there’s a scrutiny team to assess these firms before awarding them tenders, so we’re talking of our own government swindling us and acting holy yet they have the upper hand, give us answers after you’re exposed now.”
Dr Sishuwa: “Dora, how did the Govt award a contract to this company with such fraudulent dealings? Who’s benefiting from this corruption? Where was Zambia Public Procurement Authority? If they were involved, then how many other contracts of this nature are running with bogus firms like this?”
Habuumbu: “And this has to be unearthed by the world bank because your civil service is busy politicking instead of doing service delivery avoid putting cadres as permanent secretaries”
Kelvin Banda: “This is why you people are suppose to be on the look out of such fraudsters but instead you receive favours in exchange of deals and condemn corruption publicly yet you condone it privately. What are you even saying? We know you politicians.”
When contacted, Nkhuwa expressed ignorance on the matter.
“I am not even aware of that story. I don’t know about it, I don’t think it’s in my domain as my ministry. Nobody has brought it to my attention,” he said.
When reminded that Zesco fell under his ministry, Nkhuwa said it was not everything that was taken to his desk.
“Yes, it does fall under my ministry but obviously, it’s not everything that comes through to my desk unless maybe it is critical but it hasn’t been through to my desk. Why can’t you speak to the MD for Zesco or Mr Henry Kapata?” asked Nkhuwa.
When contacted, Zesco managing director Victor Mundende did not pick calls, and also Kapata expressed ignorance about the project.
“I don’t know what you are talking about, we have thousands of projects at Zesco but I don’t know that story, I don’t know what you are talking about. If you ask me about Kafue Gorge lower, I will tell you where we are at now…so I don’t comment on things I don’t know. So you can just say ‘spokesperson doesn’t know’, because I don’t know about that story,” said Kapata.