The Energy Regulation Board (ERB) commission of inquiry report must be made public to stop maligning innocent people by those who authored or saw the document, former ERB executive director Butler Sitali has demanded.
Captain Sitali (Rtd) said the release of the report could also present an opportunity for an honest discussion of what he called an important matter.
He said unless the report was made public, it would seem that those who were privileged to have authored or seen the report would continue making all manner of accusation against innocent people.
In a statement Captain Sitali said it was ‘‘underwhelming’’ that it had to take a fuel shortage to remind that there had been a commission of inquiry on ERB and procurement of fuel whose findings were never made public.
He said in view of comments attributed to Mr Wynter Kabimba who chaired the Commission and others who have called for the release of the document, he felt now was the time to say something on the matter by adding his voice to those calling for the release of the report.
He said equally troubling were ‘‘drip-drip leakages’’ of portions of the report to some media houses in which some Government officials who were not given the opportunity to see the report were accused of corruption in the procurement of fuel. Capt Sitali explained that without prejudicing the findings of the report, it was important to remember that in the euphoria that characterized the PF triumph in 2011, two of the six members of the commission, Mr Charles Mushota and Hang’omba Hang’omba, were Mr Kabimba’s brothers-in-law while another member was CEO of an entity regulated by ERB – a situation which presented a serious conflict of interest.
“Furthermore some witnesses gave their statements on oath while others did not and it would be interesting to see whether the Commission attached similar weight to statements on oath and those without being sworn” He said at the hearing his management team was denied an opportunity to make a statement and were curtly told by Mr Kabimba they would just answer the questions which would be put to them by members of the commission.
“A very unusual way of proceeding, if you ask me. But then it is said that before a court of foxes, chickens cannot expect a fair hearing. After all, our law said the commission was free to determine its own procedure,” said Capt Sitali.
He said during the report handover at State House, President Sata surprised everyone when he described the document as being too technical without reading it first. Capt Sitali said given the hullabaloo with which President Sata set up the Commission of inquiry which dissolved the ERB board, the lack of proper closure was depressing and typically anti-climatic.
He said it was ironic that while no one saw the need to make the report public for almost four years, Mr Kabimba being a member of PF’s ‘A’ team, was now calling for the report to be made public. He also shared the view that Government should not be involved in the procurement of fuel to forestall any future shortages.
“Like it or not fuel imports are perhaps the greatest challenge facing our economy. But if we have the will, we will find a way of dealing with the challenge. So let us make that report public,” he said.