By Namatama Mundia | Updated: Aug. 22, 2015
A PUBLIC procurement expert on Thursday testified in the Sylvia Masebo abuse of office trial that a government minister should get concerned when something goes wrong in a ministry.
Testifying before Lusaka magistrate Ireen Wishimanga, in a case where Masebo is facing allegations of cancelling wildlife hunting concessions and dissolution of ZAWA management whilst serving as tourism minister, Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health head of procurement, Kenneth Mapani also said the public procurement law does not say the minister had no role in procurement issues.
Mapani, who until March 30 was the principal officer-in-charge of inspections and standards at the Zambia Public Procurement Authority (ZPPA), told court during cross-examination by defence lawyer Robert Simeza that he was ignorant on how the ZAWA issue started and ended.
He said he never played a role in the ZAWA procurement process and did not follow the proceedings concerning the case.
Mapani said a procurement process could be cancelled, adding that that was why he referred the ACC officers that approached him on October 8, 2014 wanting to get clarity on the procurement of hunting concessions as well as the applicable process in procuring such a service, to section 22 and Regulation 24.
Mapani earlier testified during evidence-in-chief led by ACC prosecutor Boniface Chiwala that the process was supposed to be advertised in the public media to would-be bidders.
“I drew them [ACC officers] to section 22 (1) F of the Public Procurement Act of 2008 as well as regulation 24 of the Public Procurement regulation of 2011. I further did indicate that what the Act and Regulation indicate is that such a mandate is vested in the approvals authority,” he said.
Mapani explained that the approvals authority was an individual or board that grant prior authorisation before any award is undertaken in public procurement matters.
Asked if a Minister of Tourism and Arts had authority to cancel a tender, Mapani said such cancellations were vested in the approvals authority.
“The honourable minister does not have a role in procurement proceedings, including the aspect of cancellation,” Mapani said.
He said the approvals authority under ZAWA was the procurement committee and the chief executive officer.
But during cross-examination, Mapani agreed that the law was silent on the role of a minister in procurement.
Further put to him that the law does not say that the minister had no role in procurement, Mapani again said that was correct.
Asked what he would expect a minister to do if something was going wrong in the ministry, Mapani said he would expect a minister to be concerned.
When told that a minister was not a passenger in the ministry or a ceremonial person who would just watch corruption take place, Mapani responded that a minister was part of the ministry and in that sense would be interested to know what was going on.
The state did not re-examine Mapani and the matter was adjourned to September 15.
Count one alleges that Masebo, between December 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013, in Lusaka, being tourism and arts minister, abused the authority of her office by cancelling the procurement process of tender number ZAWA/DG/002/2/12 for hunting concessions without following laid down procurement procedures, an act which was arbitrary and prejudicial to the rights or interests of the government.
In count two, it is alleged that Masebo, during the same period, in Lusaka and while serving in the same capacity, abused the authority of her office by terminating contracts of employment for senior officers employed by the Zambia Wildlife Authority without following laid down disciplinary procedure, an act which was arbitrary and prejudicial to the rights and interests of the government and other persons.
And after court adjourned, Masebo, in the company of UPND vice-president Dr Canisius Banda, addressed a huge crowd of supporters that turned to offer her solidarity outside the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court Complex.
Masebo said people were concentrating on wrong things.
“So you can see that people are concentrating on wrong things; instead of fixing the blackouts, tavutika ma light kulibe mu mayadi yathu, bathu basiliza time witch-hunting and prosecuting or persecuting political opponents,” said Masebo.