A DIRECTOR in the social welfare department under the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services has told the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court that former minister Emerine Kabanshi accused the department of frustrating the engagement of Zampost to disburse Social Cash Transfer funds.
This is in a matter where Kabanshi is facing two counts of wilful failure to comply with the law, applicable procedure or guideline relating to procurement for the SCT programme.
Testifying before chief resident magistrate Lameck Mwale, Kennedy Mumba said that Kabanshi was displeased with him when he advised her to follow procedure in engaging Zampost to disburse the SCT funds to the beneficiaries.
Mumba said in February 2017, Kabanshi introduced him to Zampost Master General McPherson Chanda.
He said Kabanshi informed him that the reason for Chanda’s visit was to discuss how Zampost would disburse the Social Cash Transfer funds to beneficiaries as it was a government institution.
He said Chanda indicated that Zampost was ready to disburse funds and that it was also involved in paying funds to civil servants.
Mumba, 47, told the court that during deliberations, Chanda produced a document generated by Zampost and suggested that the ministry enters into an agreement with the postal service provider so that it would embark on disbursing funds to the beneficiaries.
“I perused through the document and discovered it was a memorandum of understanding. I said any relationship of such nature needed clearance from the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Finance,” Mumba said.
“I told them that what we needed was a contract and not an MOU. The reaction I got from the accused and Mr Chanda surprised me. Mr Chanda said Zampost did not need clearance from the Attorney General and he kept on insisting that the agreement was between Zampost and the ministry and what was needed is that the ministry signs the contract.”
He told the court that Kabanshi sided with the postmaster general and she emphasized that the ministry signs the document. He said he tried to explain but the accused kept interrupting him.
He said earlier the ministry had applied to Zambia Public Procurement Agency requesting for direct bidding for a company that would disburse SCT funds to the beneficiaries and the qualified bidder was ZANACO and the ministry entered into an agreement that it pays beneficiaries in Lusaka, Central and Eastern provinces for a period of five years.
Mumba said when he asked Chanda why Zampost did not bid for the disbursement of the funds when adverts were placed in the media, he said Zampost was frustrated by the director Standford Michelo and they did not apply.
Mumba said that he disputed claims by Chanda saying that Michelo did not interfere because the tender was open and that Zampost had the chance to respond to the advert because there was an independent tender committeee which assessed the bidders.
He said when he pointed out the irregularities in the MOU, Chanda said the document would be amended and resubmitted and that he further indicated that the signing of contracts was a mandate of the permanent secretary.
Mumba said the same day, Zampost resubmitted the draft of memorandum of understanding and made changes based on discussions that were held earlier in the day.
He said he advised the Zampost Master General and the accused that a contract is more valid and binding than a MOU but Kambanshi said Zampost had already made amendments that she addressed and that payments of funds should be expedited.
“I asked why it was so difficult for the ministry to draft a contract so that it would undergo right procedure, but the accused was angry and accused the Social Welfare Department of frustrating the engagement of Zampost,” he said.
“The Permanent Secretary called for a meeting between the department and Zampost at technical level. Departments of planning and information and procurement unit were present and it was resolved that a contract be drafted and a small team was assigned to draft the contract.”
He said the procurement department was tasked to follow the correct tender procedure, and in August 2017 the contract was signed by the parties at Pamodzi Hotel.
Mumba said the first disbursement was prepared for Zampost to pay to the beneficiaries in Luapula and Western provinces and ZANACO disbursed in other districts through pay points managers.
He told the court that later beneficiaries were complaining that they did not receive their funds from Zampost. But Zampost adressed letters to the ministry purporting that it had successfully disbursed funds to the beneficiaries.
Mumba said despite the irregularities, Kabanshi authorised the extension of the contract with ZAMPOST to cover Northern, Muchinga and North Western provinces and two districts on the Copperbelt, namely Mpongwe and Lifwanyama.
He said she authorised the extension of the scope of works despite being advised to seek guidance from the Ministry of Justice.
“The PS heeded my advice not to extend the scope of works but the accused did not. She said there was no need to seek advice from the Ministry of Justice. She was upset that we were dragging our feet instead of extending the contract. The contract gave us bad encounters every time we were with the accused as she was emotional and upset,” Mumba said.
He added that Finland and Ireland withdrew funding of the SCT programme due to mismanagement of funds and the manner in which Zampost disbursed the funds to the intended beneficiaries.