AS WE name and shame the controlling officers, regulatory authorities and politicians who paid a blind eye to the US$17 million medical supply tender under the Ministry of Health, we must not forget to apportion a good measure of blame on Attorney General Likando Kalaluka, State Counsel. The manner in which State Counsel Kalaluka handled the HoneyBee tender and the energy he exhibited in defending the awarding of a contract to an individual raises a lot of suspicion.
We are not lawyers, but we don’t have to be for us to apply common sense to a situation. Giving a US$17 million tender to an individual whose financial capacity you don’t know is not a legal issue, it is a matter of common sense. If you are a reckless person and you lack common sense, you can take the risk without any questions, but if you are smart and vigilant, you would take serious precautionary measures before agreeing to such a dangerous undertaking.
We say this because US$17 million is not little money. Even for the richest economies in the world, this is an amount that goes through a few stages of approval before it can be spent. We are talking about K340 million at today’s exchange rate. There is no company in Zambia that can agree to give this kind of money to an individual to supply any goods. The reason is simple: it is too risky, and to take such a risk, the company would have to forensically examine the financial capacity of the bidder. But our government, which is supposed to be even more stringent on spending taxpayers’ money, saw nothing wrong with doing this.
This would be forgivable if there was no lawyer with the barest qualification of common sense involved. But our learned Attorney General was fully consulted on this matter. He saw the irregularities, but instead of looking at the risk and advising against the award of this tender, State Counsel guided the Ministry of Health to simply rectify what they called clerical errors and go ahead with the deal.
All that was required from the Attorney General was a vigilant mind. Upon being informed that there was a problem with the bidding company’s registration papers, he should have recommended a halt to the transaction so that a fresh investigation could be conducted to ascertain the true status of HoneyBee Pharmacy. Unfortunately, State Counsel Kalaluka did not do that. Instead, he went on to claim that there was absolutely nothing wrong with giving an individual a US$17 million tender to supply drugs.
If Mr Kalaluka had that kind of money, he would not entrust even K1 million in the hands of his best friend to be buying him drugs whenever his family needs medical help. He would take that money and find the most reputable hospital and secure a reliable medical scheme for his wife and children. But when giving legal advice to the Ministry of Health, our learned Attorney General saw nothing wrong in this transaction. Why did Mr kalaluka act recklessly?
As far as we know, the role of the Attorney General in government procurement ends at giving legal opinion. Whether or not the ministry goes ahead to award that contract against his advice is not his problem, as long as he did his part. It’s not the Attorney general’s responsibility to award a contract; his is to simply look at the law and provide candid professional legal advice. That is why he is called State Counsel.
So we don’t understand why an Attorney General would go to great length to defend the award of a government contract in such a manner. We don’t understand why an Attorney General would be under pressure to align his legal opinion with the decision that has been made by a government ministry. We are at loss to appreciate why our Attorney General defended the award of US$17 million to an individual. What motivated him?
Mr Kalaluka knows that Imran Lunat, the so-called businessman who was awarded the tender, has no US$17 million dollars in his account. As facts have come to show, HoneyBee Pharmacy lied about its financial statements. In fact, the pharmacy submitted a falsified audit report to the Ministry’s procurement committee. And no one raised questions because the gatekeepers were the facilitators of this corrupt transaction.
It is not surprising that HoneyBee went to the cheapest possible source to collect these toxic drugs for supply to the Ministry of Health in Zambia. They had no money in the account to supply the drugs. They relied on shylocks who could lend them some fast money so that they could defraud the government of US$17 million and get richer.
We must state now that the Attorney General acted recklessly in this transaction, and a reckless Attorney General is a drain on the Treasury because this US$17 million will never be recovered. We don’t have anything against Mr Kalaluka. In fact, from a journalistic point of view, we are lucky to have an Attorney General who is able to engage with the media to explain how his office operates, but from a watchdog perspective, it is unfortunate to have a person in that very sensitive office who seems relaxed on matters to do with accountability and due diligence. So, with all due respect, Mr Kalaluka sir, shame on you! We beg to move.