THREE senior Government officials have been suspended over the manner in which they handled a contract for the construction of a dome to be used during the forthcoming United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly.
Tourism and Arts Permanent Secretary George Zulu said in an interview yesterday that the three senior officers were suspended last month to pave way for investigations.
The officers were suspended after they failed to give adequate explanation regarding the contractual bill demanded by Gear house, a South African company contracted to construct a dome where the UNWTO conference would be held.
When the ministry suspected irregularities in the awarding of contracts, the Auditor General’s office, Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) were engaged to verify the allegations of the misconduct.
“Gear House was asking for a 50 percent advance payment, but that’s not the way to deal with contracts in Government and when they were queried on the matter the officers did not respond well, so we decided to suspend them and institute investigations,” he said.
The suspicions prompted President Michael Sata to assign Tourism and Arts Minister, Sylvia Masebo and Mr Zulu and other Government officials to travel to South Africa to verify if the company awarded the contract was genuine.
“From our findings the firm, Gear House is a genuine company based in South Africa and they are the ones that erected the World Cup stage.
But initial investigations by the Auditor General revealed that there were some irregularities concerning the contract,” he said.
He confirmed that the Auditor General had since completed its findings in the matter and handed the report to the Ministry, with specific recommendations for action.
“We have received the report from the Auditor General which we are studying, if the officers are found wanting the abuse of office clause will be used to take action against them,” Mr Zulu said.
He said the ministry would also wait for the report from the ACC and the DEC to be furnished before taking further action.
He said the ministry took quick action before public funds were disbursed to avoid misappropriation.
Mr Zulu also said the equipment of the temporary dome had arrived in Livingstone and the construction would commence immediately.
He said Government had also paid 10 percent for the construction of the temporary dome and the balance would be paid once the works were completed.
He said the construction of the temporary dome was expected to be done within one week and handed over to Government on August 19, 2013 in readiness for the conference which begins on August 24, 2013.