Vice-President Guy Scott yesterday struggled to defend Tourism and Arts Minister, Sylvia Masebo, and in the process contradicted the government chief legal advisor, Attorney General Mumba Malila when he testified that there was nothing wrong with the cancellation of the 19 Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) Safari hunting concessions, and the dismissal of officers by the Minister.
But later under cross Examination, Dr Scott admitted that it was against Cabinet Handbook for the minister to dictate what kind of action a Permanent Secretary in any ministry should take against erring workers.
Dr Scott admitted that the action by Tourism minister Sylvia Masebo to dismiss ZAWA directors was radical because the Cabinet Handbook does not give authority to government ministers to promote, discipline or dismiss civil servants or public workers from statutory bodies such as the Zambia Wildlife Authority.
Earlier Dr Scott said the minister was within reasonable sense and action when she dismissed former ZAWA director general Edwin Matokwani along with his four subordinate directors because they did not adhere to the instructions to include chiefs in the evaluation process of the tender.
Dr Scott testified that the action taken by Masebo was the government’s position arguing that he was in total support of the decision because there was urgent need to reorganize ZAWA which he claimed had been running on auto-pilot.
The Vice-President told the Tribunal that the advice the Zambia Public Procurement Agency (ZPPA) rendered to Masebo against cancelling the tender was only an opinion that could not have stopped the minister from taking corrective measures at the institution.
Dr Scott also said that it would have been wrong for bidders in the cancelled 19 ZAWA Safari hunting concessions tender to have been invited to participate in the tender evaluation process because that would have compromised the process.
Scott admitted that it was true that Edwin Matokwani along with four of his subordinate directors were not charged or given a chance to be heard before they were dismissed contrary to the disciplinary code of ZAWA.
He said he was only informed by Masebo that Matokwani, Melody Zeko, Taulino Banda, Rose Chivumba and Andrew Sampa were summarily dismissed for failing to adhere to instructions to include traditional leaders in the evaluation process of the 19 Safari hunting concessions tender.
The Vice-President said he did not even know that the ZAWA directors were fired admitting that according to the Cabinet Hand book, it was not the responsibility of the minister to hire and fire directors at the Authority or any other statutory institution.
“The Zambia Public Procurement Agency (ZPPA) Act is there to ensure and protect the procurement process. The President, the Vice-President and the Ministers are not part of the ZPPA and should not be seen to be interfering with process. What I know is that my office did not undertake investigations into allegations that the ZAWA tender process was marred with corruption before the minister cancelled the tender. I am aware of the reasons she gave me for cancelling the tender but I am not aware if she investigated the allegations,” Dr Scott said.
He said Masebo did not breach any law in her action of cancelling the ZAWA Safari hunting tenders and terminating employment contracts for five directors.
He said it was government’s position that the five ZAWA directors should have been fired and that he stood by the action Masebo had taken although the matter to fire the officials was not discussed in Cabinet.
Dr Scott explained to the Judge Kaoma chaired Tribunal that when government changed, there were a lot of changes and among the casualties were Permanent Secretaries, directors both in the civil service and parastatal bodies because of the perception that they would have been loyal to the previous government.And Dr Scott told the Tribunal that it was wrong to entertain a complaint from Chief Nabwalya of Mpika who had been left out of the evaluation process if he was tour operator and a bidder to one of the 19 hunting blocks.Chief Nabwalya is a shareholder to Mupamazi Adventures and Safaris and was among the bidders for some of the 19 Safari hunting blocks and one of the operators who had complained to Masebo that chiefs had been left out of the evaluation process.“It would be wrong for the chief who had an interest in the ZAWA Safari concessions to participate in the evaluation process. I would not entertain such a complaint,” Dr Scott said.And former Information and Broadcasting Services Permanent Secretary Amos Malupenga testified that it was not the minister who should have cancelled the ZAWA tenders stating that it was the role of ZPPA to advise ZAWA to take such an action.