A CHINESE company, Etone Zambia Limited, has admitted to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that it had some “connections” at Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU) in order to be awarded a K51 million contract to supply Nasopharyngeal swabs with viral transportation medium.

And PAC has heard that WDNS Investment Limited, a company that was previously engaged by the Ministry of Health to supply building materials to Matero Level One Hospita,l was also awarded a contract in the sum of K14 million to supply face masks.

Appearing before PAC virtually, Wednesday, Etone Zambia Limited Marketing Manager, only identified as Rachael, said her company had connections because it had previously made some donations to DMMU.

“We got the information from the media and the bidding document. And then we went through the DMMU office to collect the papers and after that we prepared the tenders. You see, we did the donations before to DMMU. We had some connections with the offices,” said Racheal, who was being aided by someone who was whispering in the background.

But PAC chairperson Warren Mwambazi decided to instantly dismiss Rachael from the meeting saying it was unacceptable that someone was telling her what to say in the background.

Meanwhile, DMMU Senior Procurement and Suppliers Officer Innocent Dizomba said Etone Zambia Limited was recommended by the Ministry of Health.

“We do have the evaluation report of the contracts. This one is an evaluation committee. An evaluation committee sat and meetings were held where they looked at all the criteria in this particular procurement. The Auditor General is correct. There was no expert from the Ministry of Health who was part of the evaluation committee. It is regrettable that we did not pick anybody from the Ministry of Health. It was an error on our part and that one is well acknowledged. We erred on that part because we did not bring anybody from the Ministry of Health. It is our submission that Etone was recommended by the Ministry of Health,” said Dizomba.

And Nalolo PNUP member of Parliament Imanga Wamunyima wondered why a company not registered with the Zambia Medicines Regulatory Authority (ZAMRA) was identified to supply medical supplies worth K14 million.

In response, WDNS Investment Limited Director Mwendo Siame said the company had the capacity to supply face masks which were delivered within the stipulated time frame.

“We are traders who have supplied both in public and private. We have dealt with the Ministry of Health through Matero Level One Hospital but we did not supply masks. We did supply other materials. We received a phone call to inform us that there was a request for quotation which we needed to pick up and we did from DMMU,” said Siame.

“I cannot remember exactly who called but it must have been someone from procurement because I picked up the document from procurement. However, we did deliver the masks within the contract period which was two weeks. We are not registered with ZAMRA. But I think that what I supplied at Matero Level One Hospital did not require registration with ZAMRA. I supplied stones and quarry dust. We do run a very aggressive marketing programme. I think it is the fact that we are organised and we run our business with utmost integrity.”

However, Mwambazi said there was need for DMMU to conduct institutional reforms and have transparency in all procurement processes.

“I think the procurement process was a mere academic exercise. What you were doing was very wrong. We will have a position as a committee on what transpired at DMMU. There is abrogation of procedure, procurement and the way you conducted yourselves. I think it was not in the interest of the Zambian people. Together with the people who were supervising you, you cannot let such kind of thing happen because there should be internal controls and audits. It is an institution which has got structures,” said Mwambazi.

“Yes there are disasters but procedures need to be followed. As a result, there is no prudential management of resources. We have money from the donor community and government so we need proper accountability. We have seen all these anomalies. National Coordinator, we should ensure that there is transparency and accountability. The role of this Committee is to ensure that Zambians benefit from public resources. We are not here to demean people but to ensure that there is accountability.”