CHISHIMBA Kambwili says President Edgar Lungu must resign on moral grounds for launching the US$1.2 billion Lusaka-Chingola dual carriageway project which he says stinks corruption. And Kambwili says he will ask donors for assistance on a forensic audit of the road construction projects in the country.
But infrastructure development minister Ronald Chitotela has claimed the prices of cement and bitumen had aggravated the cost of construction in the country.
Meanwhile, Kambwili has insisted that he is still a member of the ruling PF but is against the “rotten, corrupt leadership in the PF”.
Experts at the Road Development Agency have revealed anonymously that a top quality road in Zambia costs around $750,000 per kilometer, and wondered why the government was ready to spend in excess of $3 million per kilometer on construction of the Lusaka-Chingola dual carriageway. Speaking at a press briefing at his residence in Luanshya yesterday, Kambwili, the Roan member of parliament and former information minister who was fired from government and recently expelled from the party, said President Lungu had made his ministers moribund because everything was being done at State House.
He said the price of the 320-kilometre dual carriageway was inflated in order for those involved to get commissions from the project, leading to single-sourcing an expensive undertaking.
Kambwili challenged authorities to state if they had advertised the major road projects, including the Nseluka-Kayambi and others in the country.
He said the Lusaka-Chingola dual-carriageway project President Lungu launched last week must be terminated to allow a comprehensive forensic audit to ascertain its true cost by competent and independent engineers and auditors.
“We would like to appeal to this government to immediately terminate and cancel the contract for the dual-carriageway from Lusaka to the Copperbelt, not that we don’t want the road, not that the people of Zambia don’t want the road, but I think there are more questions to be answered on the integrity and pricing of that contract,”
“First and foremost, we want to know whether the contract was advertised. How many companies responded to the advert? What were the quotations of the other companies that competed for this road project? Surely $1.2 billion can’t be single-sourced. Nowhere in the world where a contract to the tune of US$1.2 billion is single sourced. If it’s true that this was single sourced, we demand that the President, who went to open the project, should resign on moral grounds.”
He said Zambians had been docile by not questioning unnecessary public expenditure by those in government.
“…the Minister of Infrastructure and Housing [Ronald Chitotela] should also resign on moral grounds, and people at RDA who were involved in awarding this contract should be disciplined. I think by and large, we cannot allow a few people to earn commissions on road projects. We have been so docile as Zambians not to question some of these unnecessary expenditure. Nobody had a problem with the cost of Mongu-Kalabo road because we all know the terrain of Western Province and because most of that road is suspended on very heavy concrete but what has necessitated the contract of 320 km from Lusaka into the Copperbelt, into Ndola to cost US$1.2 billion? I am convinced beyond reasonable doubt after consulting with engineers, very high profiled civil engineers, that this cost has been inflated because of people wanting to get commission. No wonder they rushed to go and commission this project,” Kambwili said.
He said he would write donors to help with a forensic audit of the road projects.
“…we want to carry out a forensic audit using renowned experts, both at home and abroad, to determine whether it is feasible for the road to cost almost $400,000 per kilometre. That is unacceptable and I think our engineers should do us a favour, we want the Engineering Institution of Zambia and the Civil Engineers in Zambia to constitute a team that is going to carry out an audit to determine whether that project can cost that much and I think we will be writing to the donors to also second some engineers so that we can find out exactly whether this road can cost $1.2 billion. US$1.2 billion is a lot of money to be spent on 300 km road stretch. I think this is unacceptable. If this government is genuine and accountable, they should suspend this project until the audit is carried out…but spending 1.2 billion on a road from Lusaka to Ndola is unacceptable. We plead with you, otherwise we will fight you through Parliament, all the opposition are going to unite with us to make sure that we fight this alleged corruption, because we are convinced beyond reasonable doubt that this transaction, stinks corruption,”
He also challenged government to explain why AVIC International had been given the contract to do the C400 road project, which was initially awarded to China Henan.
“Is it because of the revelations by honourable [Saviour] Chishimba that AVIC is building houses for His Excellency the President? We also want to know how the Lusaka L400 was awarded to AVIC…we are tired of single-sourcing,” he said.
But during a briefing in Lusaka yesterday to counter some of the issues raised by Kambwili, Chitotela claimed cement and bitumen were costing five times more than other countries in the region.
“Just cement alone costs five to six times higher than in South Africa,” Chitotela claimed.
He said whereas the Lusaka-Ndola dual carriage way would cover 640 kilometres, the total road network to be built in the process would be 800 kilometres when the additional roads, which included the bypasses, were constructed.
Chitotela said the PF regime would not be discouraged from borrowing to invest in new road projects and building new districts.
“The question is how do we grow the economy if you can’t invest in infrastructure development? How do we improve the GDP because the GDP can only improve when you grow the economy?” Chitotela asked.
“We must not be scared to invest in projects that are going to assist to grow the economy. We need to realize that we need to take bold decisions; begin to implement these theories and hence our children will be able to see the benefits of what we are doing today.”
He said the government would continue to borrow to invest in new roads.
“In Africa, because people had gone to Harvard University and learnt and said for you to grow the economy in Africa, you must not borrow beyond 40 per cent of the GDP. In Europe…Japan today, the total debt is 245 per cent of their GDP; in America, it is 178 per cent of the GDP,” said Chitotela. “In Zambia, we are at 32 per cent and we are told if you borrow beyond 40 per cent, you will not be able to pay back hence your economy will be classified by some international classifications who have learnt theories in Harvard University and they will classify us either us negative, junk or positive and we have agreed to live with that; us we can’t borrow beyond 40 per cent of our GDP because then we can’t [and] then we will fail to sustain the debt.”
Latest statistics by the Ministry of Finance and International Monetary Fund reveal that the government’s net debt ratio increased from 23 per cent of GDP in 2013 to an estimated 57 per cent in 2017.
On mining, Kambwili said Chinese investors in the sector wanted to turn State House into an extension of their boardrooms.
He threatened to carry out a lone protest at the Chinese embassy in Lusaka similar to the one he did at State House in 2009 if Baluba and Muliashi mines that were closed three years ago due to low copper prices on the international market then were not opened.
“Today the copper price is US$7000 per tonne on the world market, and we do not see any reason why Baluba mine should continue to be under care and maintenance. I think by and large, we have been taken for a ride by these investors, particularly Chinese investors in the mining sector. I don’t know exactly what these Chinese investors have given the government for them to be quiet about the injustice miners in the Chinese run mines are going through. You may be aware that the Chinese run mines are the lowest paying mines in this country,”
He said the conditions of service in the Chinese-run mines were pathetic but their complaints were falling on deaf ears as the government had ignored them.
“…because when you go to see the Chinese, they say ask the President. We discussed with the President; Mr President, can you tell us what you have discussed with the Chinese. The people of Luanshya want to know what you have discussed with the Chinese. Every time you go to ask them, they say find out from the President and this is where the problem is; when State House wants to handle everything, even issues that can be handled by a minister, then you make your ministers moribund because they cannot perform, they cannot go anywhere. The problem of Chinese is that they want to turn State House into an extension of their own boardrooms,”
He also urged government to stop outsourcing operations to Chinese contractors saying “soon the economy of Chingola and Chililabombwe will be brought down the same way the economies of Chambishi and Luanshya have been killed by Chinese”.
Kambwili gave government a seven-day ultimatum to explain why Baluba mine cannot be reopened, failure to which he would protest on behalf of Luanshya miners.
He also challenged President Lungu to disclose the source of the Presidential Market Empowerment Scheme where K10 million had so far been spent.
Kambwili said innocent marketeers might be used to clean dirty money from corrupt contractors.
He further said it was not correct for President Lungu to parade himself with contractors such the proprietor of Inyatsi Construction at a function in Swaziland last week.
And when asked why he was disclosing those issues now that he was out of government, Kambwili said one of the reasons he was kicked out of government was because of his stance on the current happenings in Presidnet Lungu’s administration.
And asked further how far he had gone in registering ‘his’ party, the National Democratic Congress, Kambwili said: “I am still PF, the owner of that party is Mwenya Musenge. I am PF. When we were expelled, Mwenya said he was going to form a political party, me I said I will challenge my expulsion in court, because I was not elected by the President or Central Committee but the people of Roan…I am not against PF, what I am against is the rotten leadership in PF, the corrupt leadership in PF.”