The Zambian Government has signed a US$65.5 million contract for the Smart Zambia Phase 1 National ICT development Project with Chinese telecoms giant Huawei under suspicious circumstances.
The project involves the setting up of a national Data Centre, Email System, CT Talent Training, Tele presence system, Unified communication system and Assistant Maintenance Support for the national ICT backbone.
The contract which was signed by Transport, Works, Supply and Telecommunications Permanent Secretary Francis Kamanga and Titus Chansa, the Head of Purchasing and Supplies Unit at the same ministry was single sourced.
The Zambia Public Procurement Authority never issued a public tender for the project but was forced to issue a certificate of clearance long after the contract had been signed.
According to copies of the contract obtained, a number of irregularities can easily be spotted on the contract No. Huawei Ref: 00Y8941213000A.
The contract does not have a date on which it was signed although it bears the signatures of Mr Kamanga and Mr Chansa on behalf of the Ministry while some Chinese officials signed on behalf of Huawei.
The Zambian Government is expected to approach and apply for a commercial loan from the People’s Republic of China and apply for the Chinese financing fund granted by Government of the People’s Republic of China to purchase the said ICT equipment and services.
After signature of the contract, Zambia is to sign a loan agreement with pertinent authorities from the Chinese Government to transfer Chinese financing fund for making payment for this project in three separate payment instalments.
The contract quotes Red Hat Operating Systems at $ 4 492.00, MySQL Database at $52 000.00, an HA Proxy $24 000.00. According to experts in the field, all these three items of Software can be obtained as free Open Source Software.Some items on the contract for the email systems (L3-Price Table Email System on page 21 for 12 000 users) costing a total of almost $2.5 million dollars raises a lot of suspicion on the pricing of the items. Experts believe that an email system for just 12 000 users can be delivered for well under $2.1 million quoted in the tender documented. They further argue that local Zambian companies like Zamtel, Zamnet and Coppernet have for years deployed and handled emails of larger numbers of users and they have the neccessary experience and expertise to deliver a mail system for 12 000 users at a lesser price than the one being quoted.
The total budget for the project is US$65, 551, 151.12,’ the sources said.
People with the knowledge of the deal wondered how senior Government officials could sign such a big contract without specifying the date and when the equipment was to be delivered and installed.
‘The contract was issued by Government for the National ICT development project. The contract is said not to have been tendered for and it is alleged that ZPPA was only engaged at a later stage for purposes of obtaining a certificate. If one looks at the contract which was signed by Francis Kamanga, Permanent Secretary MTWSC and witnessed by Titus Chansa Head of PSU at the same ministry, there is hardly any date indicated on the same contract and how surely can senior controlling officer make such a mistake.
They have since appealed to the Anti Corruption Commission and other stakeholders to take a keen interest in the project and the manner in which the contract was signed.
You can download the full tender Contract here below