Members of the public have continued questioning the decision by the National Pension Scheme Authority (NAPSA) to award a US$25.8 million construction tender to AVIC international, when the Chinese company bid to do the same scope of work for US$4 million less.

Just like the concerned members of the public, what we expected to see was a detailed explanation from the institution, advising the owners of the Pension Fund what transpired, how the decision was arrived at and what procurement law was being pursued. But alas, NAPSA had nothing to say other than claiming that the stories we have been publishing are misleading, nothing more.

“The Authority is aware of a story making rounds in the media regarding the tender for construction of infrastructure at River View Park in Lusaka. We wish to clarify that the story is misleading and should, therefore, be ignored. The Authority at all times follows the due public procurement process in line with the Public Procurement Act, regulations and guidelines under Zambia Public Procurement Authority. Should there be any aggrieved party in this process or have any matter to raise, they should follow the laid down appeals procedure in accordance with the Public Procurement Act Number 12 of 2018 and the Public Procurement Regulation SI 63 of 201,” read the statement released by NAPSA head of corporate affairs Cephas Sinyangwe.

No offence to Mr Sinyangwe, but his statement has caused more harm than good. It has failed to answer the questions that the public and the owners of the Fund are asking; instead is has raised more questions. Sir, people are asking your institution to show accountability and transparency, you can’t just say the reports are misleading, while failing to state which part of the reports are not correct.

If you claim that NAPSA followed all laid down public procurement procedures in accordance with the Public Procurement Act, then what you are saying is that the people who are asking questions like Mr Charles Milupi, a successful businessman, is ignorant. If that is the case, educate us. Tell us specifically which provisions of the Act you followed in making the recommendation to award the contract to AVIC International, so that people’s concerns can be put to rest.

We are not the only ones who can’t see any sense in the exculpatory statement by NAPSA. Former State House Press Aide Dickson Jere, who is also a practicing lawyer, feels NAPSA has caused a disaster in an attempt to resolve a crisis.

He wrote: NAPSA Public Relations Disaster: I have just been looking at this press statement from NAPSA. I am not sure whether it is a letter or press statement. It lacks seriousness in the manner it is written. The allegations against NAPSA over the inflating of tender costs from USD 21 million to USD25 million are very serious, which required a sober but detailed response. The statement is not even signed by the person issuing it???? It’s pp…I think NAPSA needs to get its Public Relations Office reorganized. It is a public institution which needs to respond to the public through well-thought out press statements and not this one below! Ati those aggrieved should follow the appeal procedure in the Public Procurement Act – like really? No mention about the discrepancy in costs, which is the story making rounds. I have always said, better keep quiet if you cannot respond to the allegation than putting out such press release. Silence is golden at times!

No one has said the members of the NAPSA evaluation committee are thieves or are corrupt. People are merely asking, and there is nothing wrong with demanding answers. This is your decision, you made it and you must be proud of it. If there is nothing criminal and the law was followed to the latter, surely it shouldn’t be difficult to provide simple answers to simple questions.

Did you not call for bids for the said Twin Palm River View Park construction? Did you not receive a bid from AVIC International, as the second lowest bidder to do the work for US$21 million? Didn’t the NAPSA evaluation Committee agree to make a recommendation that the contract must be awarded to AVIC international, but at an escalated cost of US$25 million? That is what we have reported to the public. Which part of this information is false or misleading? If what we reported can’t be disputed, the public is now asking, why did you do that?

Like Jere has correctly observed. Sometimes it’s better to keep quiet, especially when you know that you are guilty, other than making things worse by implicating yourself with shoddy defence. Even a child who is caught stealing powdered milk knows too well not to answer when being interrogated because any attempt to talk spills out the evidence.