WORKS and supply minister Felix Mutati says while the Government Printers is currently incapable of printing ballot papers for the 2021 general elections, the government will do “whatever it takes” to ensure that the facility does the job by that time.
Speaking on ZNBC TV’s Sunday Interview, Mutati reiterated that President Edgar Lungu made a clear directive that “we must be able to print the 2021 ballots in Zambia”.
“And we have taken that directive very seriously that that will happen – whatever it takes. Now, in reaching there we have carried out an assessment of the state of play, both in terms of equipment, in terms of human resource, in terms of product range of Government Printers. We have since advertised for a consultant to help us put the business case for the transformation of Government Printers…” Mutati said.
Asked by programme host, Grevazio Zulu, whether or not it was a foregone conclusion that the Government Printers would print ballot papers for the 2021 general elections and if the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) had already awarded the tender to the Government Printers, Mutati responded that: “No! We are at stage where we have to clean house. We don’t even have the machine to print the ballot papers; how do we get the tender?”
“Where we are now we are not capable [and] that’s why I have said we are working on the printing press. After we have done that, we need to have an engagement with the various stakeholders, including ECZ because printing of ballot papers has certain sensitivities which must be addressed,” he explained.
On his ministry’s initiative of impounding government vehicles as a way of curtailing abuse, Mutati outlined the programme’s positives.
“The first time that we mounted a road block in Lusaka, we were able to impound over 80 vehicles. [But] last weekend, only two vehicles (were impounded). So, that shows that our people are capable of compliance – what they need is to be controlled. It is an exercise that we must continue until we get the right levels of discipline, until we get the right levels of order. We have been able to recruit part-time inspectors; the number of people that are coming to volunteer their time [and] assist in the control is phenomenon. So, for me it is to look forward and say ‘how can the ministry assist in curbing expenditure misuse’ and I think we are making a contribution because the resource that we have got as a country is so small. The issue of prudence must be number one, the issue of limiting wastage must be number one. So, the savings that are generated from that exercise are being re-deployed to deliver other services that are critically important,” said Mutati.
“One of things that we did about two weeks ago was to look at the penalties and say the penalties were too low. They were not creating the impact that was desired to regulate the behaviour of those that are vulnerable to abusing assets. So, the penalties have been elevated. For example, the previous penalty for somebody who is not employed by government driving a [government] vehicle was only K1,000. Now, that has been lifted to K5,000….”