THE National Pension Scheme Authority has sued Alliance for Democracy Development leader Charles Milupi and the News Diggers Media Limited seeking damages for libel for alleging that it was corrupt and misappropriated funds for its members when it inflated the contract price from the initial US$21 million to US$24 million.
NAPSA is seeking an injunction restraining the defendants, whether by themselves, their servants or agents from further publishing or causing to be published the said words or similar words defamatory to it.
NAPSA in its statement of claim said that it invested in a project called Twin Palm River View Park Infrastructure Development in the East of Lusaka and it invited the public to submit bids to undertake the development of the said project.
It stated that among the entities that submitted bids was AVIC International limited which has a proven record in the construction industry in Zambia and after evaluating all the bids it received, was awarded the contract to develop the project.
NAPSA said AVIC bid to develop River View Park at US$25.8 million and after going through the tender process, in accordance with its internal procedures as well as the law on procurement, the authority awarded the tender to the Chinese company.
NAPSA said between June 23, 2019 and June 29, 2019, Milupi and the News Diggers published an article in relation to the awarding of the said contract to AVIC and accused it of corruption and mismanaging its members’ funds.
It said News Diggers on June 23, last year published defamatory words against its character were Milupi was quoted saying “Whatever the justification for this recommendation, Zambians deserve to know how the US$4 million will be broken down. Like Milupi is arguing, there is no way that AVIC international can forget to include VAT or contingencies in their cost estimates, only to be reminded by the evaluation committee. In the face of the public, this awarding of contract smells corruption and abuse of public funds. So NAPSA must not keep quiet and pretend like there is no scandal here. We challenge them to face the owners of that pension money and explain their grounds for this suspicious recommendation, not just urging the public to ignore the story.”
“This brings us to the issue that we have been talking about regarding Chinese companies and corruption. In our view, China is very willing to do clean business in Africa and Zambia in particular but, we the citizens in positions of power, want to benefit corruptly from their business. Here is a case where a Chinese company says we are ready to do this job for US$21 million but the institution being charged says ‘no that money is too little, we want to give you US$4 million extra’, why?” Milupi said.
NAPSA feels that the words in the publication in their natural meaning meant and were understood to mean that it corruptly awarded the tender to develop River View Park to AVIC.
It said the words contained in the publication were false, published maliciously and were calculated to cause damage to its integrity and business and will show at trial that the statements issued by Milupi through News Diggers newspaper and online platforms were libelous and to the detriment of NAPSA’s character and reputation whose sole mandate is to provide social security for its members.
“Particulars of malicious falsehood are that the allegation that the plaintiff inflated the bid sum by $4 million is false, that the Chinese entity was preferred over American and European companies is false and that the tender development of River View Park was procured through corruption is false,” NAPSA stated.
It said the newspaper generated comments from the members of the public condemning the pensions scheme authority in a disparaging manner and lowered its esteem in the right thinking members of society while other society members lost confidence in it.
NAPSA said as a result of the defendant’s malicious actions, its business had been seriously injured, resulting in pecuniary loss on its part due to the damage of its reputation.
It said attempts to settle the matter amicably failed as it wrote letters to the defendants requesting for their retraction and apologies but they willfully failed, refused and neglected to do so.
It said by reason of the aforesaid it was claiming for damages for malicious falsehood, interest on all sums found to be due as damages and legal costs and any other relief the court may deem fit.