FORMER Finance Minister in the MMD government Dr Katele Kalumba says government, through his ministry and the Zambia Privatisation Agency (ZPA), had done due diligence before arriving at a decision to privatise Mosi-O-Tunya Hotel in Livngstone.
And Dr Kalumba says Hichilema is being asked to account for his role during the privatization process because he is seeking public office.
Meanwhile, Dr Kalumba says a minister cannot be involved in corruption alone as they are schooled by government officials when getting into office.
Speaking when he featured on the ZNBC’s Sunday Interview, Dr Kalumba said issues surrounding privatization were well-reviewed under President Levy Mwanawasa.
“I didn’t expect it to get to this far. I think the issues were well-reviewed under President Mwanawasa. Committee of parliament was set up to review the privatization, the ZPA acquitted itself in their reports and so one, the issues that were raised by the Auditor General were in public domain and some of them were answered while some of them were not answered. But I didn’t expect that it would reach this scenario,” Dr Kalumba said.
Asked if the privatisation process was a fraud, Dr Kalumba said the core responsibility of the actual negotiation and the details of privatisation was done by ZPA through its agencies.
“I will only understand that if you give me an example of any industry that was privatized which is failing. The structure of privatization was very clear. Cabinet, through its committee, had the oversight. But the core responsibility of the actual negotiation and the details of privatization was done by ZPA through its agencies that it was hiring. These were Zambian experts. And due diligence had been done by ZPA, I would assume, on the expertise of each particular firm. ZPA was an agency that was put in place by the law, hiring you to perform a public function. And for me, particularly for the mines, I had to go to parliament for parliament to agree. So, it was not just a one man decision,” he said.
And Dr Kalumba said UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema’s name is being linked to the privatization only because he was seeking public office.
“Now it’s only Mr Hakainde Hichilema’s name which is coming out but in the past, there were other names coming out. It happened that maybe because he is a man who is seeking public office and people are asking him to account. I have gone through this issue and if you are calm, and answer these things reasonably, people will leave you. But don’t be emotional about it,” he said.
Dr Kalumba said he was satisfied that Sun International Hotel had the capacity to construct standard facilities before signing the deal after Mosi-O-Tunya hotel was sold to them.
“The financial issues had already been agreed to at the level of ZPA. I didn’t know that bidders had been there. I only found that there was one file on my table about the Sun international brought to me by my permanent secretary. We had to satisfy ourselves and conducted a capability assessment of whether or not these people were capable of constructing a hotel. And through Mr Hakainde Hichilema and officials of Sun international and my own office, we arranged a trip to see what they were capable of,” he said. “After that trip, I satisfied myself that they had the capacity to construct high-quality facilities. But I think the debate now is on if Mr Hichilema had shares in Sun international when he was negotiating for Sun international. If he had no shares, let him explain to the members of the public so that those who are questioning him could shut up. But in my view, this thing can be well investigated through the investigative wings to prove whether or not he had shares.”
Dr Kalumba said corruption is not done by politicians alone.
“There is no school for ministers. Usually, when ministers go into office, they are schooled by the officials they find there, on what to do and so on. And the system of governance must be examined very well on how ministers relate with the officials. And for those that may have the predisposition to acquire things outside the law, usually, they work with the officials in government. A minister cannot do it alone. Corruption is on the streets and we have to look at it holistically as a society,” he said.
And Dr Kalumba said the fight against corruption must only be left to professional government agencies because if left in the hands of politicians, they will make political capital out of it.
“The selectiveness of this fighting corruption to only particular constituencies I think is wrong. Let us leave the corruption to the professional wings of government, and not to politicians. Politicians are making political capital out of a narrative that is warped. And the private sector must not be left out. This is a private sector-driven economy. The private sector are the ones who win public contracts. And much of the government contracts that are done are won by the private sector. We can’t just look at one side,” said Dr Kalumba.