Glaring irregularities are surfacing in the manner the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA)’s 19 hunting Safari concessions were cancelled by Minister of Tourism and Arts Sylvia Masebo with the latest revelations showing that Masebo formed a cartel of individuals who were among the bidders as her advisory committee that had irregularly amended the tender document to accommodate some preferred bidders.
Former ZAWA director Edwin Matokwani told the Judge Rhoyda Kaoma Tribunal investigating Masebo on allegations of corruption and breach of the Parliamentary and Ministerial Code of Conduct that Masebo had no authority to cancel the tender for hunting Safari concession and that her action amounted to abuse of office and interfering with the normal procurement procedures.
And Matokwani has told the Judge Kaoma Tribunal that his dismissal and that of his other directors by Masebo was gruesome, shocking and illegal as she (Masebo) was not the appointing authority because ZAWA was an autonomous institution.
In the continued hearing of the Kaoma Tribunal, Matokwani moved emotional submissions of how he was humiliated and ridiculed by Masebo days before he was fired only on the basis that he had advised the Minister against the cancellation of the hunting concessions and altering the tender document.
It was revealed yesterday that contrary to the provisions of the ZAWA Act, Masebo formed her advisory committee comprising George Sokota, Guy Robbinson, Timothy Mushibwe Asherwood Keithian and Anna Baro.
Matokwani testified that some of the members of Masebo’s advisory committee were in fact among the bidders who had applied for hunting concessions and that it was illegal for her committee to have amended the tender document that was fully endorsed by the Zambia Public Procurement Agency (ZPPA)
It was also established that Matokwani and the other four directors including Melody Zeko who was acting conservation director, Taulino Banda who was head of procurement and Rose Chivunga were summarily dismissed because they had failed to implement the Patriotic Front (PF) manifesto of empowering Zambians.
But Matokwani submitted to the Tribunal that the PF manifesto was not part of the selection criteria of successful bidders and that the selection of the bidders was firmly guided by the tender document.
“I want to express my gratitude to the chairperson of the Tribunal that I have finally been accorded a chance to be heard because when I was fired, I was never given a chance. For one year and two months, I have looked forward to this day when I would have an opportunity to be heard. However, the cancellation of the hunting concession tender by Masebo was illegal and irregular because that amounted to interference with the procurement process. My dismissal and that of my other directors was not only illegal but gruesome and inhuman. The tender process was transparent as we had officers from the office of the president, Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and other institutions,” Matokwani said.
Matokwani said no matter how grave the allegations against the committee that was evaluating the bids were, it was not the responsibility of Masebo to take drastic measures without following the due process of the law.
He submitted that he had informed the ZPPA about Masebo’s intention to cancel the tender and that he was advised to tell Masebo that she was committing an illegality but that she (Masebo) instead threatened him with unknown sanctions.
Matokwani said he also consulted the Attorney General Mumba Malila over Masebo’s intentions and that it was the position of the AG that Masebo was committing an offence by attempting to cancel the tender.
Meanwhile Rose Chivunga who was the tourism development and marketing manager at ZAWA testified that although she did not fully participate in the evaluation process of the bids, she suffered the fate of getting fired by Masebo soon after she lost her husband.
Chivunga told the Tribunal that it was ironical that Masebo had formed her own advisory committee of people who were interested parties in the tender adding it was her group that had altered the tender document to suit their own interests.
She said the tender document was ZAWA property and that it was wrong for Masebo to involve the people who were bidders to the tender as her advisors.
Chivunga said Masebo had directed that black Zambians with round noses should be considered for the tender even if they did not meet the criteria as provided by the tender document.
And Melody Zeko complained that the justice system in Zambia was not just as she was dismissed without being given an opportunity to be heard while Masebo who has been accused of serious offences of corruption and breach of Parliamentary and Ministerial Code of Conduct had been given a chance by the Tribunal to defend herself.
Another witness James Milanzi who is the current ZAWA director of conservations told the tribunal that the tendering process and its evaluation was above board and that Masebo had errored by cancelling the tender.
Milanzi told Judge Kaoma Tribunal that he was shocked not to have been fired because he was part of the team that was evaluating the bids.