The Parliamentary Committee on Telecommunications has expressed shock that ZICTA allowed Chinese telecoms giant Huawei to install communication towers that were below the specifications contained in the bid document.
Committee Chairman Vitalis Mooya said there is something fishy in the manner ZICTA allowed Huawei to abrogate the terms of reference and called for further investigations into the project.
Committee Member Kenneth Konga described the move by ZICTA to engage Huawei in the second phase of the tower project as absurd especially that the Chinese contractor has underperformed in the first phase of the project.
In April last year, ZICTA launched a project to install 169 mobile telephone base stations in rural areas in all the ten provinces at a total cost of US$ 13.5 million.A typical communication tower cost between US$ 200 and $250 but ZICTA allowed Huawei to install each tower at approximately US$ 80,000.
The reduction in the cost of installation also meant that Huawei was also allowed not to abide by one of the key technical specification which required that the tower provides rural macro coverage of at least 5Km in radius.
A study conducted by the Consumer Unity and Trust Society in December however revealed that the coverage of most of the installed towers was 1.65Km as opposed to the 5Km prescribed in the terms of reference.The study entailed that 3.35Km was not being serviced raising the question of how these installations are being monitored by ZICTA.
Consumer Unity and Trust Society Lusaka Centre Coordinator Simon Ng’ona submitted to the Committee that it is evident that most of the towers fall short of the 5Km radio requirement by ZICTA.
‘Despite the fact that the challenges necessitating this development were not shared, one particular failure is that the specifications were not met and this raises eyebrows and concerns,’ Mr Ng’ona said.
The Parliamentarians were informed that the Anti Corruption Commission has taken up the matter to study whether there are some elements of corruption.Committee Member Ephraim Belemu said ZICTA is not being prudent and transparent in the utilisation of public funds for the project.
‘For me who comes from a farming community, if you install a tower with coverage of 1.5 Km in a particular Chiefdom, you are basically saying coverage will only be at the Chief’s palace if the Chief has a large farm, meaning the community members who are supposed to be communicating with the Chief will be cut off, this project doesn’t make sense,’ Mr Belemu said.