RESPONSE TO SAMPA KALUNGU’S PRESS RELEASE ON THE CONSULTANCY CARRIED OUT BY PREMIER CONSULT
Premier Consult Limited is perturbed by the Statement (in print, soft and video formats) released by Mr. Sampa Kalungu, the Transparency International-Zambia Chapter President, regarding what he describes as “conflict of interest in the awarding of the First Quantum Minerals (FQM) Ltd.’s US$1.3 billion expansion investment evaluation consultancy to Prof. Oliver Saasa through his consultancy firm, Premier Consult.” Mr Sampa issued this Statement purportedly on behalf of the well-respected Transparency International (TI).
From my knowledge of TI with regard to how they, as a matter of standard protocol, counter-check facts prior to issuing strong statements against an individual or institution, Mr. Kalungu’s Statement falls far short of the expected norm. This unfortunate incident leads me to believe that he has abused, for whatever reason, the integrity of TI when he signed the Press Statement under its Logo. It was my expectation that, under normal circumstances, TI officials would have called me to verify the facts prior to the preparation and issuance of the Press Statement. This did not happen. Considering the wide coverage of Mr. Kalungu’s Statement (on the radio, electronic/social and print media), I take the liberty to advise the public as follows:
- In his Press Release, Mr. Kalungu stated as follows: “Our concern stems from the fact that Prof. Saasa is the chairperson of the Economic Advisory Council, having been appointed by President Hakainde Hichilema, and in that position, he provides advice to the President on economic matters.”
- There are serious inaccuracies in this Statement. Firstly, what Mr. Kalungu calls the Economic Advisory Council (that I chair) does not exist. He needs to tell the public when this body was formed and who its members are. Similarly, he should state when I began providing “advise to the President on economic matters” under the umbrella of the so-called Economic Advisory Council. This is the problem when one’s agenda is less than honourable and when they fail to counter-check facts prior to making statements that aim to defame others’ characters. I can only assume that Mr. Kalungu is basing his inaccurate assumption on the statement made by the President, in December 2021 during the time when the BCCET (of which I chair) was invited to State House to discuss with the Head of State our proposal for the formation of the Business Advisory Council. On that occasion, the President announced that I had accepted to be Chairman of what he referred to as “Advisory Council.” Note that the envisaged Business Advisory Council was to be a creation of the business community, which intended to frequently meet with the President to discuss issues that concern the private sector. That statement by the President may have been misconstrued by people like Mr. Kalungu to have meant that I was formally appointed as an Advisor to the President and that I, therefore, hold a public office. That is incorrect. The facts are that (a) I have not been appointed to serve in any capacity in the Zambian Government and, consequently, I do not receive a salary or allowances that may have justified anyone to refer to me in the manner Mr.Kalunga has portrayed me; and (b) while the President may have intentions to actualise the formation of the “Advisory Council,” this is yet to be formed. I am not aware of anyone who has been appointed on what Mr. Kalungu calls the Economic Advisory Council that he claims I currently chair. So many things have happened since December 2021 and, recently, the President announced the formation of the Public-Private Dialogue Forum, to which, as it will soon be made public by the President (he said so during the launch), many private sector executives will be part of the different consultative layers. He is yet to announce the Steering Committee that he will chair himself. Again, this was announced by the President himself and it is in the public domain. If I will be appointed as a member of any of the consultative layers, as will be the case for many other captains of industry, that remains the prerogative of the President. None of these private sector players will be considered “advisors” or “employees” of Government. They will, nevertheless, be strategic in helping Government better embrace and interact with the private sector. Mr. Kalungu needs to be helped to better understand – and appreciate – how the President wishes to interface with the private sector going forward. In short, a private sector player being in a consultative or advisory function with the Government in the changing scenario of doing things never implies being recruited by, and wok under, the Government for the purpose of “declaration of interest” in the manner this is understood legally or as a good governance trait.
- Emanating from the point above, I cannot see how any reasonable and well-meaning person (or Organisation such as TI) should be concerned when I, under my Firm, consult with any Government agencies (let alone with such private companies as First Quantum Minerals Limited).
- Even if I was on the payroll of Government, I cannot see how my registered private firm should not consult for other private firms. There are many officials, including ministers in our Government (and in previous Governments) that legitimately own stakes in companies or even own firms that conduct business with other private companies (not to mention those that have had deals with some government agencies).
- In searching for faults, Mr. Kalungu announced in his written Statement and on video that “the recommendations from the evaluation of FQM are crucial in informing the government on its next actions with regard to the country’s mining sector and overall economic development. It is therefore of grave concern that an individual who is meant to guide the President on the economic decisions pertaining to the country, is on the other end, evaluating the country’s largest taxpayer on its investment in the country.” On the face of it, this statement may sound legitimate to an average ear. What is puzzling is that it is based on the assertion, which is incorrect, that I am an employee of Government with a mandate to “guide the President.” I would understand if Mr. Kalungu was referring to the people employed at State House that are hired, designated and paid as Advisors to the Head of State. I do not occupy a government office. I am 100% in the private sector for over 20 years now. In any case, the President can receive advice from anyone and any organisation (local or international) and defining “conflict of interest” purely on the basis of who advises the President only succeeds in revealing an opinion of someone that should be nowhere near Transparency International as we have known it to be.
- Mr. Kalungu also wondered: “questions can arise on whether the awarding of the consultancy itself was impartial given Prof. Saasa’s position as chair of the President’s Economic Advisory Council, and his potential interest to advise the President in a particular direction.” This Statement alleges corruption on the part of FQML (who retained Premier Consult for this deliverable) as well as suggesting dishonest on my part. These are serious charges. Firstly, I cannot be chair of a non-existent Economic Advisory Council. Secondly, Premier Consult’s professional relationship with FQMs dates back to almost a decade and is based on their knowledge of our capacity to deliver. To suggest that FQML retained Premier Consult’s services because I am Chairman of a non-existent Council does not constitute the behaviour TI should be associated with and I have every right to protest about this behaviour at the global TI. It is also noteworthy that the Recommendations of the Evaluation are fundamentally targeted at the commissioning party (FQML) and not the Government although they have a bearing on the relationship between the Company and the State. The quality of the recommendations should be judged on their quality rather than on assertions that Mr. Kalungu conjures-up.
- Mr. Kalungu, purporting to represent TI, states that “It is our considered view that Prof.Saasa ought to have declared interest in this consultancy project, or altogether detached himself from it given the existing and clear interest.” It is quite strange that Mr. Kalungu, considering that he is Chairman of TI, seems to have difficulties in interpretating what constitutes Conflict of Interest. If I was working for Government (and I am not) and I consulted for a government agency (and I did not unless he believes FQML is Government), the notion of conflict of interest would perhaps have arisen. But FQML is not a Government company, so in what context is he seeing a conflict of interest that I have failed to declare? And to whom was Premier Consult supposed to declare that conflict of interest. Mr. Kalungu also does not seem to know that Premier Consult and Oliver Saasa are two different legal personalities. He strangely uses the two interchangeably.
Taking into account the serious inaccuracies and wrong assumptions made by Mr. Sampa Kalungu against me and my Firm (as shown above) and considering how injurious to the standing of my consulting Firm as well as to myself as a professional with decades-long track record in consulting work in both Zambia and internationally, and also taking into account the reputational injury to me on the corporate boards that I sit on, both locally and internationally, I demand, within 48 hours, an unreserved withdrawal (through the press) of the Statement authored by Mr. Kalungu and purported to be the position of Transparency International. I further demand an unreserved apology from Mr. Kalungu for the attempt to misinform the Nation on the legal (or good governance) standing of my Firm and me. I reserve the right to take further actions.
Oliver S. Saasa (Prof.)
Managing Consultant and CEO
PREMIER CONSULT LIMITED