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I’ve never been associated with theft – Attanga

I HAVE never been associated with theft, former Zambia Railways Limited chief executive officer Professor Muyenga Attanga told journalists after being questioned by the ACC in Lusaka yesterday.

Prof Attanga, accompanied by his wife Bridget Kalonga Attanga, arrived at the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) offices at about 09:15 hours.

Around 09:35 hours, Prof Attanga, Bridget and lawyer Josephs Akafumba were taken to the investigations room.

Between 2012 and 2013 Prof Attanga served in president Michael Sata’s government as permanent secretary in the then Ministry of Transport, Works, Supply and Communications.

In April 2013, president Sata appointed him to act as Zambia Railways Limited (ZRL) managing director until he became a substantive holder of the post.

But his contract was terminated on May 29, 2015.

He joined the National Democratic Congress (NDC) in December 2017 and is now a central committee member in charge of mines.

Bridget is the NDC secretary general.

Prof Attanga came out of the investigations room around 12:06 hours and was asked, among other questions, whether or not he deemed the questioning normal.

“The only thing that came to my surprise is that this is an issue whereby clarifications have been sought from me even in 2015. You are talking about four and half years later…So my concern was ‘why now?’ I’m a politician and so whatever happens to me, I’m sensitive,” Prof Attanga said.

“So the timing was my concern but I have no problems with the investigations.”

He said he would cooperate with the ACC at any time because: “the Almighty God says ‘speak the truth and truth will set you free.’”

Prof Attanga described the NDC leadership as strong and thanked party members present at the ACC to offer him moral support.

“NDC is the party of the future and just watch out what happens in 2021 when we take over – there is no doubt about it,” he said.

Prof Attanga also explained that the ACC officers were: “trying to find out about something to do with procurement activities during the time when I was managing director at Zambia Railways.

“It was a fact-finding mission; they have been carrying out investigations on so many things and so many areas. The issues they raised are not new; they are issues that were handled in the past by the Auditor General’s team and the internal audit,” he explained.

Prof Attanga stressed that he went to the ACC to clarify on how “those things were handled and how we managed the company.”

“So really, nothing very unusual, except that I had to put them in the picture, to guide them so that they correct the information, in terms of what took place at the company,” he said.

Asked about any specific ‘irregular’ contracts which the investigative officers were concerned about, Prof Attanga answered that he could not, at the moment, say.

“It (questioning) covered a wide range of things in the areas of procurement. I went through to explain the procurement system; the legal aspect, the managerial aspect and how things were being done,” he said.

Prof Attanga emphasised that at the ZRL, he believed in running a transparent and robust system in terms of procurement.

“During my stay there, it was quite clear; even government appreciated the way I was managing the operations of the company in the procurement system. We are looking at something that happened almost five years ago,” Prof Attanga said, adding that there was a little challenge on his part trying to remember what took place.

“But I thank God I have a sharp memory – I was able to highlight a few things, referred them to certain documents which they could extract more information. These things happened in 2013/2014 but I tried to make some clarifications.”

He assured Zambians that he had confidence that what he did at the ZRL was in line with the existing procedures.

Prof Attanga pointed out that in management there was what was called operational errors.

“But what is bad is theft. Theft is different from operational errors! Operational errors mean that in your management process you might make mistakes which can then be remedied through a process of review,” he said.

“So for me I’m not associated with theft [and] I have never been associated with theft from the ministry to Zambia Railways. I’m a person who believes in transparency and a robust system of making sure that things are done correctly and that’s exactly what made me survive at Zambia Railways under those difficult conditions.”

He added that president Sata had confidence in him.

“If you look at the operations of Zambia Railways at the time, I put Zambia on the global map. You go to Zimbabwe, Mozambique, DRC, Brazil, Spain, they can tell you about it,” explained Prof Attanga.

“We managed to work as a team with those young men and women in Zambia Railways to ensure that we put up a rail that had almost collapsed. We gave credibility to the vision of late president Sata who was the leader of PF. So PF actually earned from what we did for Zambia Railways.”

Meanwhile, ACC corporate affairs officer Jonathan Siame told journalists that the Commission recorded a warn and caution statement from Prof Attanga.

“This is in connection with investigations that the Commission has been conducting and these involve alleged irregularities at Zambia Railways Limited during the term that he served as chief executive officer,” said Siame.

“Unfortunately, I cannot divulge any further details as the matter is still under investigations.”

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