CUTS Responds to ZICTA on Tower project, Our findings were never generalised

FILE: The Then Vice-President Dr Guy Scott makes the first call from Huaweis new tower
FILE: The Then Vice-President Dr Guy Scott makes the first call from Huaweis new tower

Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS), International Lusaka has responded to the presentation made by the Zambia Information and Telecommunication Authority (ZICTA) before parliamentarians.

In a statement released to the media, CUTS exonerated itself from the gross misrepresentation and uptake of the findings of their initial report on the chiefdom tower project by some sections of media and the regulator, saying the findings of their report has never been generalised.

Below is Mr Ng’ona full statement.

CUTS Responds to the emerging discourse on the Chiefdom Tower Project

For Immediate Release


Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS), International Lusaka would like to exonerate itself from the gross misrepresentation and uptake of the findings of its initial report on the chiefdom tower project by some sections of media and the regulator – the Zambia Information and Telecommunication Authority (ZICTA).

CUTS has been clear from the onset that the initial assessment undertaken was concentrated on the initial set of towers erected under the ZICTA chiefdom tower project. Specifically, the areas visited include Matanda in Mansa and Malendema, Shakumbira and Kaindu, in Mumbwa. The findings of this report have never been generalised.

There are series of subsequent reports in the pipeline and these will be released as and when they are completed.

At Matanda, our findings revealed that network coverage averaged around 1.65 km as opposed to the prescribed 5 km radius.

Therefore, we are elated by the revelations of ZICTA that its recent audit on this site shows that the tower meets the 5 Km radius requirement in the North direction of the tower.

In the eastern direction, it has been revealed that coverage was limited by mountainous terrain.

This is a better picture than what existed in August 2014 when CUTS conducted its initial audit.

However, we still need to make more efforts to equalise the coverage between the north and the south.

The 2 Km coverage in the South is too low and undermines the very principle of 5killometer radius as prescribed by ZICTA.

We believe it is the responsibility of the vendor contracted to find solutions on how to eschew mountains and terrain challenges.

Further penetration in the south is required if the communities in the south are to benefit from this tower.

In Mumbwa, it must be re-emphasised that, our initial report acknowledges that towers at Shakumbira and Kaindu were not fully functional due to lack of power.

ZICTA has also indicated that the sites are still not live due to lack of power.

Though there could be questions on why installation of power has dragged, it is beyond the scope of this statement to discuss this issue.

Lack of power entailed that tests could only be carried out at the Malendema tower by CUTS.

As of August last year, it was discovered that the installed tower at Malendema site could only cover an average of 2.8 km.

Again, we are elated by the revelations of ZICTA that indicate that the tower now meets the 5 kilometre radius in all directions. This is a good development.

CUTS is also exultant to learn that the results from 61 sites audited so far by ZICTA which indicate that 45 sites (representing 73.8 percent) meet the minimum coverage requirements and 16 sites (representing 26.2 percent) do not.

Again efforts need to be made to equalise the situation and ensure that those covered in the 26.2 percent are improved upon.

Comfortingly, it is exhilarating to also learn that ZICTA has given an assurance that, where the minimum requirements are not met, the contractor shall be requested to remedy the defects and where possible, a detailed report of the coverage audit shall be availed in due course.

This is a good and bold policy directive by ZICTA management. Alas, it contradicts with the earlier statement and position by ZICTA.

In a statement released late December 2014 directed to the Post Newspaper and copied to CUTS, one part of the statement read as follows; “Phase two of this project will be embarked on in a couple of months’ time and will include approximately 270 towers to cover all the other communities which are not covered in Phase one of the project. All related concerns noted from Phase one will be addressed during the second phase of the project”

The latter part of this extract entail that phase one challenges will be deferred to the second phase.

We have argued over the months that it does not make logical and moral sense to transport inefficiencies of phase one into phase two.

Therefore, we take it that the directive given above supersedes this position.

In moving forward, there is need for ZICTA to invest more in giving the public coherent positions as such uncoordinated statements have potential to breed information asymmetry among different stakeholders on the subject.

Further, there is also need to reconcile certain issues on this project.

In the same statement issued last December 2015, it was indicated that “On average, the typical cost of a Communication Tower site is between USD 200,000 – and USD 250,000.

However, for each Communication Tower in phase one of the Connecting Chiefdoms project, ZICTA has spent approximately USD 80,000 because of the lower specifications which were used”.

Our question over the months has been why use lower specifications against the legally prescribed specifications developed by ZICTA itself.

Surely, a saving should not make one go against legally defined specifications in the terms of reference.

This has to be clarified unless there was a misprint in the statement.
The other issue which might require further clarification is on the number of towers to be erected under phase one.

What is in the public domain is that ZICTA has targeted construction of 169 towers.

This is also confirmed in the December statement by ZICTA which reads in part “The cost of the project for the 169 towers is USD 13.5 million dollars and not what the article intimated.

We have now been informed that the towers being erected are 204 under phase one and no contract has been signed with any vendor for phase two.
The question that ensues, therefore, is where do the extra 35 come from and at what cost?

Perhaps it could be a generous gesture by the vendor to set up the towers for free. Whatever the reason is, a more concrete statement by ZICTA could assist in addressing such questions.

To end, it must be stressed again that, when CUTS divulged the findings of the initial assessment, the expectation was that ZICTA would take it positively and invest more in monitoring the installations as and when they are installed.

It was CUTS’ reasoning that the probability of success of phase one was higher if ZICTA vetted every installed tower (or through a quotavetting process) before a green light for other installations is given.

This was a prudent way of managing such highly financed projects than deferred audit exercises to project partial acceptance or completion stages.

We are glad that ZICTA is conducting the audit now and in-tern the vendor is being coerced to deliver without any reservations.

Funds permitting, ZICTA should also consider engaging an independent auditor to undertake the due-diligence of the project and this will give the institution an independent perspective devoid of personal interest to the project.

It must also be noted that it’s not about proving CUTS wrong.

Setting up towers that meet the agreed specifications is the right thing to do as public resources are at stake and our interest rests there.

We are also comforted that, ZICTA under phase two has sought to engage the services of an external project manager to manage the proposed phase two of the chiefdom tower project.

This is a timely and positive development, and to some extent, confirms with CUTS’ observation that capacity within ZICTA was limited to handle such a complex project.

For details contact;
Simon Ng’ona
Centre Coordinator
Consumer Unity and Trust Society CUTS International Lusaka
E-mail: [email protected],[email protected] (+260 950624874)


  1. Surely how do you say that inefficiencies of the first phase will be deffered to phase two…How can a competent person say such a thing. I am now questioning the competence of the people at ZICTA… i am ashemed.

  2. I knew that CUTS will come spitting. ZICTA should try and engage such organizations as their watch dogs for easy feedback. Why scandalize an organization which is trying to assist you monitor such a project. I think morality in ZICTA should be questioned… I also think its time for both organizations to meet and settle matters that fighting in the media.

  3. Despite the CUTS’ lengthy statement, the question remains the same, Has the memorandum of understanding been honoured? No! Let those concerned carry their own burden. The rest is rhetoric. Period!

    • I don’t understand why ZICTA should take us for granted on this issue and they think we are so naive over such matters. Speaking as a telecoms professional I can confirm that the report by CUTS has been so accurate,look at my reasons below:
      1- ZICTA was not supposed to use the same height of towers in all parts of the country regardless of the terrain. These towers are too short to be used and from experience the least height of tower that we have used in zambia is 36m. Once a survey is undertaken looking at the terrain you decide what height of tower to put up e.g 60m in muchinga

      2- wrong antenas were used,you cannot use omni antenas to provide coverage of a 5 kilometer radius. These are usually used at farms like in mkushi just to cover the demands of a client like those big…

    • Ati hands off cuts.. I like it.. It reminds me of the post editorial during the last elections….., “move your dirty hands off Muvi tv”….. And I also share the same move your dirty hands off cuts…

  4. Continued
    3- these sites are configured with two try’s each with maximum transmit power of 15 watts so what ZICTA were doing is during the recent testing they would configure just one try meaning the transmit power was 30 watts and this would cover a larger radius and only calls to test lines like 111 would be made but when you look at the phone the bars were full,this causes call drops and muting. I bet by now they have reverted to the initial configuration

    Solution: increase the tower height,change bts type to support sectored antenas and use microwave transmission not satellite

    I have worked for the operators and I know exactly what am talking about….. ZICTA don’t lie to us

    • You are on point Boss. From an engineering perspective specifying a tower using a very vague phrase ‘coverage radius’ is a recipe for trouble. I have a strong suspicion that the specification that was used for this tender was not properly written.

    • Cuts raised serious contractual arguments.. Yes zicta should coordinate their statement.. Surely how do u issue contradictory positions.. People think Zambians don’t read.. I think zicta is one institution that also thinks so.. Hope u have learnt from this.. CUTS thanks for being our eyes.. Umuntu ni reading every sentence..

  5. As I said before. The current ZICTA management does not have the capability to manage such an important and strategic institution! Why is government even wasting it’s time? Fire the chaps and prosecute them for gross mismanagement! When are heads going to start rolling when chaps are found with cases to answer?

    • The more you drag in sorting out this mess, the more suspcious we are becoming. The whole syndicate appears to become more complicated by the day. Who is f00ling who?

  6. The more you drag in sorting out this mess, the more suspcious we are becoming. The whole syndicate appears to become more complicated by the day. Who is f00ling who?

    • I can imagine.. I get the sense that this project will ultimately be a success if such pressure continues.. Viva Cuts… Toothless zicta can’t even crack a whip of service providers who have been abusing consumes with impunity.. Ratsa, box and Ccpc re my top three regulators…

  7. Casper is right, how can we expect all of the towers could cover 5 kilometers radius just rely on 25 meters height tower and 15 watts output power omi antenna? If it could be, that means Airtel, Zamtel and MTN engineers and management are so fool to spend millions of dollars to build different height towers and set up 60 wats antenna to cover just a little bit further than 5. If you want to know the truth, go to operators to ask them how about their coverage and how much they spend on it.

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