AT least K6 billion was paid by the National Road Fund Agency (NRFA) to road construction companies owned by Patriotic Front officials and some associated foreign firms, a News Diggers investigation has revealed.
According to information obtained from NRFA, about K6 billion was paid to selected firms, and a review of the companies showed that a number of them were owned by PF officials and their relatives.
Chipangali PF member of parliament Andrew Lubusha, who is proprietor of Andrich Freights Limited, a firm that got paid over K33.3 million, says his company bid for over 100 government tenders during the 10-year reign of the Patriotic Front, but only got awarded 4 contracts.
Meanwhile, Atlantic Commodities Ltd proprietor Charles Sipanje, whose firms got paid over K14 million, says the PF does not have membership cards, and therefore, it is not possible to tell that contracts were awarded to ruling party officials.
According to records seen by News Diggers, several members of the ruling party and some politically exposed persons linked to the Patriotic Front were awarded lucrative road contracts for which they were paid by the National Road Fund Agency.
Records show that Exoline Investments Limited, a company linked to Emmanuel Kasambo, who was the 2021 PF aspiring candidate for Mpongwe Constituency, was paid over K34 million for road contracts while another K29 million was paid to his other firm called Big Five Investments Ltd.
Dreamlight Enterprises Ltd, a firm linked to former Minister of National Development Planning Alexander Chiteme, was awarded a contract and paid about K2.7 million by NRFA.
The Road Fund Agency also paid about K8 million to Construction for Africa Limited, which is traced to Roy Mugala, the 2021 PF aspiring Councillor for Kanyama Ward 12.
Atlantic Commodities Ltd and Chrimer Construction (Z) Limited, companies owned and linked to former Northern Province Permanent Secretary and 2021 PF aspiring candidate for Mbala Charles Sipanje were paid at least K5 million and over K4 million respectively.
His brother, Gilbert Sipanje’s firm GKS Investments Ltd, was awarded and paid contracts worth over K8.5 million.
Meanwhile, a law firm, Equitas Legal Practitioners, where the current LAZ vice-president Lungisani Zulu works as legal consultant, was paid over K5.4 million, money which the firm says was received on behalf of clients.
“We just receive money on behalf of our clients. So, they will enter into a contract, like the main contractor and the sub-contractor because you want something like an escrow account. So, the monies will be paid into our account and then it will be paid to the other party, who is our client. It acts as an escrow account. You don’t want it when the monies are paid and once the monies are paid, there are some people who will probably use it, so we structured a contract where we will receive money as an escrow account, not that we are engaged in road constructions,” said Chiluba Mumba, the managing partner for Equitas Practitioners in an interview.
“So when the contracts are awarded, we are not even involved. For us, it is purely legal. So, we don’t do road constructions, the monies are paid on behalf of our clients. And of course there are confidentiality issues, I wouldn’t want to go into details. So, we just receive those monies on behalf of our clients. There is really nothing sinister about that.”
Lubusha, in a separate interview, explained that all the road construction tenders that his company won were subjected to competitive bidding.
“You can never get a contract without bidding. Now that UPND is in power, we will now see the accusations they were making, if they were possible. There is no one who can be awarded a contract without bidding, it is not possible. All the biddings are competitive. We have been contractors since 2009. Even at the time we were in opposition, Andrich Freight was still a contractor, a registered contractor. Andrich Freight has participated in over 100 bids, and out of those, we were only successful on about three, four bids. For the 10 years we were in power, we only won three. So, it is not that we were given any contract just like that,” said Lubusha.
“And when it comes to contracts, it has nothing to do with political influence. You cannot influence the process. Even those who are busy celebrating in UPND that ‘now it is our time.’ They will see. Contract is something different. RDA is a professional body, it has a long process, it has a committee of over 30 technocrats. Even when we were protesting against non-payments, we were bidding with our colleagues from the UPND. I can even tell you people from the UPND who were successful contractors under the PF. NFRA can never pay anybody not even K1 of money that has not been worked for, that I can assure you. It is not possible.”
Sipanje, who was recently named in the leaked Pandora Papers over an offshore company called Atlantic Commodities Investment Limited which he opened in Dubai in 2018, said it was difficult to tell if road contract were awarded to PF members because there were no party membership cards.
“How do I know if the contracts were given to PF? Because as far as I know, there are no cards to say you are a PF member. So how do we know that somebody who has been given a contract is a PF member? When bids are advertised, the government in all the ministries RTSA, RDA local government give contracts to Zambians and those who qualify so it is difficult for me to say they were PF, UPND or indeed any other party,” said Sipanje.
“Atlantic is a company with managers and employees and they do a lot of work and it has been in existence since 2009. So, I cannot remember which business contract was supplied or got off hand because there are over a number of transactions. So it will be difficult for me to mention a figure, unless you send me the details and then I check up with people at the office. Because the company has a lot of orders, contracts supplying.”
The records show that other selected Chinese companies were paid at least K5.9 billion during the same period.
For the project “Engineering design, Rehabilitation and Construction /Upgrading of selected Lusaka Urban Roads (Approx. 161Km) – Lusaka City in Lusaka Province – L400 Phase II” Avic International was paid K3.7 billion.