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Saturday, August 8, 2020

A Case For Fire Trucks In Zambia

Columns A Case For Fire Trucks In Zambia

The Fire Trucks

By Gautama Nyerere

Government recently purchased 42 fire trucks at a cost of US$ 42 million. The purchase of these trucks has brought controversy and discussion among sections of the public.
The implication by these is that either the large price per truck is as a result of corruption or see this as a case of mis- appropriation of funds, arguing that the money can be better spent for other more pressing needs e.g health , education etc.

The discussion regarding the fire trucks has prompted Local Government and Housing Minister Vincent Mwale to issue a ministerial statement in Parliament indicating that in fact the purchase of the trucks represented value for money and that the tender was cleared by the Zambia Public Procurement Authority and Anti-Corruption Commission after some of the 15 losing bidders referred the matter to these institutions hoping to reverse it.

Mr Mwale said Grand View International was the best evaluated bidder at 42m after meeting the technical specifications required by the tender.

He said that Albion Export Services U.K one of the losing bidders quoted at $ 49m which was 7.9m higher than Grand View. In spite of this still seems to be a strong and general insistence that something untoward happened during the purchase of these trucks.

And former Roan PF Member of Parliament Chishimba Kambwili according to some sections of the media even went as far as alleging that the winning bidder donated three luxury vehicles to then Local Government Minister Stephen Kampyongo in order to influence the awarding of the tender.

There is an argument to be made about whether or not the funds used to purchase the fire trucks could have been allocated to more schools, hospitals or indeed any other infrastructure development. But there is also the argument to be made about addressing the social and economic consequences of fire. Assuming we have faith in the procedural efficiency of the Zambia Public Procure Authority ( after all these are the same guys who approve bids for schools and hospitals ) and the integrity of the Anti- Corruption Commission and agree that however misplaced these funds are in their allocation, the transaction was above board we can then begin to ask the question- what are the economic and social consequences of fires and what price are we willing to address this?

I came across a “Fire Research Report” from the UK done by the DCLG. Iam assuming its a local government department-old English school mates please help me here. In its estimate for the economic cost of fire in England for 2008 the estimated cost was 8.3 billion Pounds.

Data gathered to form the core of this report was gathered from the following:
Fire and rescue service incident data ( taken from fire damage reports ) Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy Property damage and lost business data ( from the association of British Insurers and National Health Litigation Authority ) Population Data

In estimating the cost of fire the report broke the data down into these separate categories:

Costs in Anticipation: The costs of measures designed to either prevent fire or protective measures to mitigate the damage cause by fires. Key variables that were monetised as part of the costs included Total costs of active ( e.g sprinklers ) and passive ( e.g fire walls ) fire protection in buildings Resource and capital cost of training and safety Non-pay related costs, Total insurance administration

Costs as a consequence: The costs as a result of fires, including damage to properties, loss of business, and the cost of human injury and death. Key variables that were monetised as part of the costs as a consequence included, Total cost of fatal and non fatal casualties, Total cost of lost business , Costs of property damage, Costs to victims, the police, criminal justice system and prison service.

Costs in response: The costs as a result of reported incidents which typically include the cost of fire and rescue service, false alarms etc. Key variables that were monetised as part of the costs in response included; Fire and rescue service costs in response to fire related incidents Capital costs in response to fire related incidents.

As you can see it was quite a detailed report and to me in light of this discussion very interesting. For it prompted the thought that perhaps a greater discussion- beyond partisan sentiments needed to be had over the $ 42m debate.

What is the cost of fires in Zambia? What was the cost of City Market and Chisokone fires both socially and economically?

The many buildings that have burnt, the many lives lost? When we quantify this in relation to the cost of the trucks, their lifespan and service to the community, will we not understand their true value?


  1. Modernization of Fire Brigades in the country is not at issue. The issue is simple and straight forward: Is yes or no, One Million per fire engine good, fair and right pricing? Please remain calm when public outcry is in the air. The public holding leaders accountable because they are tax payers. To establish whether One Million per fire engine is good, fair and right, a independent study could assist in building public trust. Above all, the refund in full in part could also be an viable alternative.

    • Nice piece. The answer is the fire trucks price is very fair considering the amount of property lost in Zambia thanks to the fire brigade coming to scenes without water or even worse not coming at all because the lone fire truck is in another part of the city

    • Very shallow article. What is the cost of not having drugs in hospitals (let’s just say UTH) compared to the cost of not having these fire engines? We had 900+ deaths at UTH 4 months ago and that is a big cost. What is the cost of not fixing the drainage in Lusaka CBD including the townships? How many people have died because of fires. You simply cannot compare. It seems you are putting no value on human life.

    • These fire trucks have just displayed how dishonest our society has become;
      1. Why have we not been shown a clear and detailed picture of one of the trucks
      2. Who is going to train and service the truck, I guess it’s one of the companies that did not get the bid
      3. I thought the cheapest and effective way to deal with fires is education. Ensuring families and communities are taught how to prevent or deal with fires. This should not be a one off thing, regular training and events are needed to keep reminding people about safety.

    • Fire trucks are not a solution to causes of fire. We need to invest in fire prevention rather than fire quenching. If the government had purchased the same number of refuse trucks to clean up Lusaka and other cities the risk of fires would be reduced significantly. This deal smees of corruption.

  2. Will the fire-brigade really be able to put out fires with new fire tenders? What good is a high tech fire tender when it has no water? This is what happens when you have no vision!

  3. “What is the cost of fires in Zambia? What was the cost of City Market and Chisokone fires both socially and economically?”

    Ask Lungu and his PF cadres that started these fires so they could blame HH while he was sitting in jail on trumped up charges and they could justify the State of Emergency!

    For them it was worth the cost so they could continue stealing and refuse to HEAR THE PETITION!

  4. The writer seems to think that Zambians do not understand the need for fire engines. All Zambian agree that there is need for fire engines. The issue at handle is the cost of each fire truck at 1 million dollars. These fire engines are basic fire engines that cannot cost US1 million each.

    In today’s connected world you cannot just assume that citizens won’t know the difference.

    • They keep comparing theses fire engines to usage in developed countries with fire hydrants at every corner of the street…these selfsame would not put out a big fire like City Market as they would need refillng with water.

  5. Nyere….. what you are trying to cost into a tangible product are not part of the cost of a fire truck….. what you are talking about or trying to sound intelligent defending the indefensible are eventualities that a government looks at in its promotion of sound infrastructure….. does the water system have capacity to fill the tankers, not just in lusaka but in ALL providences. If the answer is no then why not customise for our circumstances. . Politically motivated pipo from government persuasion please just admit the government has embarrassed itself and our nation and caused our children and grandchildren pain and suffering for repayment of questionable financial decisions

    • These people are skin cringeing i tell you…they would defend reckless govt expenditure when their children are sharing desks at school because govt has no money.

  6. We agree we need fire trucks, but not at any cost….no bwana, while zambians suffer and die of no medicine and schools have no roofs we can not be held at ransom by thieves and suspect fires…….fires that conveniently started when this fire truck tender was raised….. At one million for a truck that costs 380,000 is day light robbery…

    www google.co.uk/amp/s/www.crawleyhappytimes.co.uk/new-state-of-the-art-fire-engine-for-crawley/amp/

    • That is how these theives are managing to build personal shopping malls and mansions all over zambia with stolen money……

  7. One thing I can predict……expect a fire anytime now with one of those gonga trucks conveniently nearby to save the day…….the theives have been cornered and will use state institutions to start a fire anytime now to deflect attention and justify the cost……watch this space….

  8. Youare waisting time to dispute with Upnd donkeys who oppose every good move the government makes. Please HE president ECL and government please ignore these donkeys. I don’t understand why normal people can listen to the fake and frastrated politicians like Kambwili and upnd. Kambwili and Upnd will cry fool in August 2021 when the PF will be ushering once more ECL as a president


  10. That is fine, so when do we start comparing our lovely hospital here in Zambia to those in England. The issue is not about Britain buying those engines, England has a larger population, can afford it, surely borrowed money wasted on those engines, it does not add up. Let people talk, because our government is not responsible. So so selfish, everyone looking at how they will benefit.
    Tulibapina, it doesn’t help ukulakubwa ifintu kubantu. Live within your means.

  11. Now I’m also becoming very skeptical about the mandatory HIV testing. Did we really need it? And how much have we spent on it?

  12. It does not make sense to buy those fire tenders at that cost? But Zambia is a one week cry country and government is aware and they know that after one week of noise, we will revert to normalcy.

  13. It’s a good move, one we all in Zambia should support. There was nothing to call Fire Brigade in Zambia before this. No 999(111), emergency number if your house was burning down. How can the purchase of modern and larger numbers of the trucks to the Service be proof of fraud?

    Let’s keep a citizen eye on the trucks.
    Let’s just say, if the trucks begin to disappear……..as ‘sticky fingers,’ begin to subvert them for personal financial gain; then let’s YELL LOUDLY, and prosecute.

  14. Retires are suffering mostly council retires who are not even getting there annual payments even there lump sum not paid for years letting them destitutes they have no where to start from shame

Comments are closed.

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