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?