ZESCO Limited Board Chairperson Vickson Ncube says the cancellation of the tender for the supply of 25 ‘luxury’ vehicles was not done out of pressure, revealing that the utility had already abolished personal to holder cars for its staff at the time the advert was placed.

And Ncube says Zambians will be contracted to erect wooden poles once Zesco secures them from the selected suppliers.

Speaking on Hot FM’s Red Hot Breakfast Show, Tuesday, Ncube said personal to holder cars were abolished due to lack of resources.

“The vehicles, it’s just a matter of timing, on the 14th March if you go to our board reports, I chaired the meeting, we abolished the policy of personal to holder vehicles to the Zesco staff and management. We said for now guys, we cannot afford to buy cars but however in your conditions of service, we have already committed to that. So what do we do? Why don’t we get into a discussion of paying you allowances instead and once you have those allowances, you buy whatever vehicle that you want to buy but for us as Zesco we can no longer afford. Management agreed, now we are in the process of working up the modalities,” Ncube said.

“But because earlier on the decision of personal to holder cars had already been put in the pipeline to acquire, it comes out three days after the board meeting. It didn’t even take me to say anything, the MD called me, ‘Chair sorry, I realised that the advert has come out for the purchase of vehicles soon after the board’s decision. I am going ahead to cancel this tender because it’s been overtaken by events’. That is what happened, it is just that it was already in the public domain and people concluded it been cancelled because of pressure, no! It is the change of policy. From now on Zesco, will no longer have personal to holder cars for management. It’s not like someone was working behind the board, it’s just that the decision was made by the board and this tender is already in the process of publication. ”

And Ncube said Zambians had not been left out of the wooden pole tender.

“We have a financial problem and we must also try to save every ngwee we can even as ZESCO. So we realised that the best way to save this cost is to deal with the manufacturers. However, the Zambian businessmen have not been left out, we are not going to allow Zimbabweans to transport those poles. We are going to have Zambians who will do the logistics for us to bring them from there. But at least I would have saved a few coins on the procurement. When these poles arrive, we will not have the Zesco staff who are able to do everything, we are going to subcontract local contractors,” Ncube said.

“They will be the ones planting those poles; they will be the ones helping us if we want to build sub stations. We will contract Zambian local contractors, they will do that but it is the issue of bringing, securing immediately those poles immediately that is at play now.”

He said insisted that Zesco was trying to save costs by dealing purchasing with the manufacturers.

“We looked at this and said guys where we are, we have already eaten this money and we are not able to pass the cost to anyone else. Remember, if I have already eaten your money, we cannot say let’s increase the price. So I said to management, what is the least cost we can use to arrive at the solution so we said look guys can we identify the manufactures of the pole wherever they are Zambia or Australia. We identified that our least cost method will be from South Africa and Zimbabwe. Then we said fine guys why don’t we quickly reach to these people, give them the tender to compete among themselves to get us the best so that we can now quickly address the construction,” Ncube said.

He said Zesco had insufficient resources.

“The actual position is that first, I will use technical terms, I will explain them. Our working capital we are in negative, our gearing, we are in negative. So what I am saying is our immediately available resources to service our obligations are less than the obligations that we have. In short, if every debt pays me and I get all the cash in every bank account and everyone that is owed money by Zesco come on the same day, we have the money and we have our creditors, we will not be able to satisfy all of them. We are anaemic as Zesco in terms of cash flows. And then when it comes to gearing, the shareholders fund versus the amount we owe long term on other people, even there we fall short, Ncube said.

Meanwhile, Ncube said the company hopes to clear the backlog of connections by Christmas this year.

“On the issue of the backlog, we just sat down with our management to say symbolically, by Christmas 2022, not a single Zambian who paid Zesco in the past, the 67,000 be off the grid. Everyone must have the power. Now it is our responsibility to find means of the how. We gotten the money and we must pay. Our dream and vision as Zesco is every Zambian, every corner of the country must have electricity. We must only use charcoal and firewood for braai and not as a source of energy. That is what we are looking at going forward. And as I am talking to you, by the way, there is progress from the 67,000 that stood at the end of December, today we are sitting at 9,000,” said Ncube.