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Zambian Minister Under Fire for Awarding Government Contracts


Some civil society organizations in Zambia have petitioned the country's Chief Justice to set up a tribunal to investigate allegations of abuse of office against Minister of Communications and Transport, Dora Siliya. The minister is accused of signing a memorandum of understanding between the Zambian government and RP Capital Partners of Cayman Islands to provide consultancy services for the valuation of the Zambia Telecommunications Company (ZAMTEL) without competitive bidding.

Zambia's Vice President George Kunda, who also is the justice minister, says the deal was properly cleared by the country's solicitor general. He accused opponents of politicizing the issue.

Former communications and transport minister William Harrington, who petitioned for the setting up of a tribunal said the awarding of $2 million without competitive bidding is a breach of Zambia's Parliamentary and Ministerial Code of conduct.

Current communications minister Dora Siliya told VOA the Zambian Daily Post newspaper which broke the story has acted as investigator, prosecutor, judge and jury at the same time.

"As far as The Post newspaper is concerned, government can do no right. So it is a futile discussion as far as the Post newspaper is concerned because they will be the prosecutor, the judge, the jury and everything themselves," she said.

Siliya refused to say whether she was categorically denying the allegations against her except to say that they were politically motivate.

"You saw these allegations in the papers, isn't it? That's why I'm saying I will make no comment because as far as we are concerned we can't win any argument because they decide to be the prosecutor, the judge, the jury and everything. The truth will be known at the right time," the minister said.

Former Communications and Transport Minister William Harrington, who petitioned for the setting up of a tribunal, said the awarding of nearly US$2 million without competitive bidding is a breach of Zambia's Parliamentary and Ministerial Code of conduct.

"These allegations which have been leveled against the Honorable minister regarding her conduct in respect to tender procedure on privatization of our telecommunications company Zambia (ZAMTEL) as well as acquisition of services and goods to replace the radar at the Lusaka International Airport over which her office is directly responsible. And because of the allegations, I thought prudent and expedient that in order for Zambians to know the exact truth, that competent, professional, and independent tribunal is established by the chief justice of the Republic of Zambia," he said.

Zambia's vice President George Kunda, who also is the justice minister, says the deal was properly cleared by the country's solicitor general. He accused opponents of politicizing the issue.

But Harrington denied that both he and Zambian civil society groups are politicizing the allegations against Minister Siliya.

"The action I have taken is non-political as far as I'm concerned. I'm acting merely as an ordinary and concerned Zambian citizen because large sums of tax payers money have been involved, and I think it is for that very reason that it is now necessary to establish through the offices of the Chief Justice of the Republic of Zambia, as provided in our laws that he establishes a three-man tribunal for purposes of establishing the truth," Harrington said.

He describes the Zambian Chief Justice as an honorable person who would be able or should be able to respect the provisions of the law unless there's political interference from higher authority.


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