Works and Supply Minister Sylvia Chalikosa says government is in the process of installing a web press to enable the Government Printers print ballot papers for the 2021 general election.

Chalikosa, however, says there is need for a complete overhaul of Government Printers to make it compete with private printing companies in the printing of ballot papers.

“We are in the process of installing a web press and that web press is state-of-the art. It is supposed to be able to print ballot papers as a government document. And once Government Printers is up and running, it will be one of the participants in the tender that the Electoral Commission of Zambia will float. So, even if it gets to the status of the ability to print ballot papers with all the security features, the Electoral Commission always floats tenders internationally because that is the transparent process that they use. And then, they are the ones who decide which company will print the ballot papers. So, the directive from the President (Edgar Lungu) is for Government Printers to be able to print ballot papers and that is what we are working on for sure. However, in terms of choosing who is going to print the ballot papers, that’s entirely the Electoral Commission of Zambia’s prerogative,” Chalikosa said in an interview.

“…And according to the technical experts, this machinery is supposed to do all sorts of wonders. So, when we are done with the installations, we will see what it can do, but this is what we believe it can. The web press prints. It has certain features that allows it to print, for instance, the usual printing of headed papers, business cards, government notices or whatever government documents that we have, including receipt books, passports, NRCs. It has that ability to be flexible and it can print any government document that we have as long as we have the right paper, the right toners. It’s a question of just putting in certain accessories to get what you want [like] if it’s a book, a card or anything.”

She stressed the need for a complete overhaul of Government Printers to make it compete with private printing companies.

“It (web press) should be able to print anything that the private sector does. That is why we went for it and we realised that we needed to do a complete overhaul of Government Printers so that we are able to print as much as possible locally. And really, we are servicing government institutions, but the idea is for us to open up to the public so that even members of the public can come for printing jobs. That way, we will be making some extra income for the Treasury. So, we should be able to even print kitchen party cards, wedding cards, invitation cards, name it,” Chalikosa added.

Meanwhile, Chalikosa said her Ministry was in talks with the Treasury to see how much could be invested to actualise the repossession of public wasting assets, a programme started by her predecessor, Felix Mutati.

“The concept paper has been done, but as usual, you need to invest money into a programme for it to start. So, we are at the process of negotiating with the Treasury to see how much we can get to kick-start it. We are also looking at options of PPP (Public-Private Partnership) and get to the private sector to also invest some monies and use some of the assets and regenerate an income from their usage so that we have a win-win situation. We know that right now, the fiscal space is very tiny and I think the best option is to go for a PPP. We haven’t started putting out tenders of who would be interested, but I think in the next coming weeks, you may see some advertising for people to express their interest. It is a very good programme and I think you see a lot of government buildings being rehabilitated through that programme. And in about two weeks, you will know [how many properties have been identified as wasting assets],” said Chalikosa.