Local Government and Housing Minister Vincent Mwale has attempted to shield government from the controversial procurement of 42 fire tenders at a cost of US$42 million.
And investigations have shown that Grand View International Limited, the firm awarded the tender to supply government with the 42 fire engines is owned by President Edgar Lungu’s close business associate Bokani Soko.
On 3rd December 2015, Ministry of Local Government and Housing Head of Procurement and Supplies Unit Charles K. Chisanga, awarded a US$42 million contract for to 42 fire fighters to Grand View International Ltd.
A search at confirmed that Grand View International Ltd Directors are Bokani Soko and Quintino Soko.
A number of stakeholders have questioned contract sum and accused government of lack of priorities for paying US$42 million for 42 fire engines which translates to US$1 million per one fire engine.
But Local Government Minister Vincent Mwale has defended government from the criticism saying there was no cabinet minister who had a hand in the procurement process.
Mr Mwale said Cabinet has no role in the procurement adding that tenders are never tabled in cabinet meeting.
He said cabinet meetings only discussed contraction of loans and not tender procurement.
Mr Mwale who is also Chipangali Member of Parliament was responding to questions from Zambians on Twitter who asked him to clarify how government approved the procurement.
The Local Government Minister has since promised to issue a ministerial statement in Parliament on the issue.
“I fully understand and that is why I see the need for me to do a comprehensive statement to parliament and afford MPs an opportunity to ask,” he said.
Mr Mwale disclosed that all procurements are handled by Permanent Secretaries up to a certain threshold and those beyond thresholds are referred to the Zambia Public Procurement Authority (ZPPA).
“A PS has a ceiling and beyond that ceiling it’s got to go to ZPPA and that’s the ultimate, they handle any amount. There is nothing beyond them, “he said.
Mr Mwale however admitted that the Ministries initiate all procurements.
“Yes, initiated by the line Ministry and by the procurement officers then the controlling offers ultimately. My point was that it’s not Cabinet. Have you ever wondered why it was only controlling officers that appeared and still appear before the Committee (Public Accounts Committee)? Because they procure and not politicians.”
Mr Mwale also castigated Roan Member of Parliament Chishimba Kambwili for speaking out against the procurement of fire tenders now that he is not a Minister.
“Well let’s say any former Minister. I thought he might be more believable because of his stance on government at the moment. Cabinet doesn’t get involved in procurement of any project no matter the size, such things are not tabled. ZPPA is the authority. Ask Kambwili,” he said.
And investigations have revealed that the trucks were bought in 2015 by Grand View International, a company owned by Bokani Soko, a close business associate of President Lungu.
Further investigations also showed that most tenders submitted ranged from $15m to $19m but Grand View International ended up getting the tender at a whopping $42 million.
And one of the companies that tendered and objected to the 42 million tender even brought in manufacturers of the fire trucks to come and explain the costs of all specifications required stated that the highest one could spend US$ 19 million for the 42 trucks including all the taxes, insurance and shipping.
Some critics have pointed out that the recent spate of fires that have hit markets in Zambia were deliberately calculated to justify the procurement of the 42 fire fighters.