UNZA political science lecturer Lee Habasonda has asked government to explain its position regarding Jiangsu Zhongtian Technology Ltd (ZTT), a Chinese firm that recently admitted to have had used falsified documents to win a government tender under Zesco in 2017.
Habasonda says it shows lack of seriousness for the ministries and institutions involved in the project to express ignorance over such a serious matter.
The World Bank banned ZTT, a company that manufactures and distributes fibre optic cables for a period of 20 months, in connection with fraudulent practices under the Lusaka Transmission and Distribution Rehabilitation Project in Zambia.
The ban entailed that ZTT would not be eligible to participate in any World Bank-financed projects and could also not trade with any other multilateral development bank or related projects after it admitted to defrauding the Zambian government in the Zesco deal.
Following this revelation, News Diggers! contacted Energy Minister Mathew Nkhuwa asking for an explanation on how the tender, worth US$210 million, was awarded in the first place.
But Nkhuwa expressed ignorance of the World Bank report where this announcement was made and referred the queries to Zesco, whose spokesperson, Henry Kapata, also expressed ignorance on the project.
However, Information and Broadcasting Services Minister Dora Siliya, expressed regret over the exposé via Twitter.
But in response to a press query, Monday, Habasonda, who is a former Transparency of Zambia president, wondered why government had not interrogated the matter and brought the culprits and their accomplices to book already.
“There is something seriously amiss in the governance of our public affairs for government to pretend not to know about a contract they signed with a company that has been debarred by the World Bank for use of fraudulent documents. Clearly, this is an indictment on Zambia’s commitment to promote integrity and fight corrupt practices. It is a manifestation of weak monitoring and accountability mechanisms. The lack of due diligence and failure to apply minimum integrity scan tests when doing business is very worrying at a time that the country needs every bit of actions with hallmarks of integrity to cure its financial problems before the international community,” Habasonda stated.
He said the episode showed government’s lack of seriousness.
“The whole episode highlights government’s lack of seriousness in taking responsible and extensive investigations into the profile of companies involved in big tenders, such as this one. Just the other day, the FIC (Financial Intelligence Centre) released a damning report on suspicious financial flows. Surely, we really think we can marshal international good will? No, no…We are stretching our luck too far. It is inappropriate and embarrassing to try and deal with this matter in a dismissive manner the way our government officials are handling it. I can’t imagine what our diplomats are going through to deal with such uncomfortable matters. Indeed, government is making the work of its diplomats very hard because they have to defend and explain actions that are difficult to explain in order to save the reputation and image of the country for actions of irresponsible officials,” Habasonda noted.
He demanded to know what ZPPA’s and Cabinet’s positions were on the matter.
“We cannot as a country continue to carry out business as usual. Where is ZPPA? What position has Cabinet taken collectively on this matter? Why are we dealing with a soiled company? What are the controlling officers doing? Did some people get kickbacks for this contract? For goodness sake, how many other deals could be happening in such a fashion? Why is Zambia becoming such a desperate country where we desire to deal with desperate companies? This matter must be thoroughly investigated and government must provide clear and appropriate answers why we are dealing with this company,” stated Habasonda.
“I am also wondering why Parliament has not questioned the Executive on such an important matter, which borders on Zambia’s good image at home and abroad. Is this a sign that all our institutions have collapsed? There is simply a casual attitude towards this matter and this behaviour is appalling and symptomatic of a waning State. Zambia needs to get back to the basics and reflect on the manner in which we want to conduct national affairs. It is a very sad state of affairs that wrong things are not rectified and the public is greeted with pervasive silence from those entrusted to manage their affairs on issues that matter, but are subjected to unceasing propaganda on trivial issues that usually pit one Zambian against another!”