ZAMBIAN publishers have challenged the ministry of education to explain why no single Zambian owned publishing company had been considered for a contract to publish Zambian vernacular books.
The publishers have also demanded that the ministry of Education should confirm assertions by the permanent Secretary made on Television that local publishers had no capacity to print and publish books when they had successfully done so in the past without difficulties.
The failure by the ministry to renew the frame work contracts for local suppliers has been said to be a deliberate move aimed at disadvantaging Zambian publishers, Mwajionera Publishers Limited executive director Alice Mkandawire has charged. Ms Mkandawire said the requirement that for one to be awarded a contract the supplier must have performed in the previous contract was not being followed. She claimed that some publishers who did not even supply books in the 2012 contract have had their contracts renewed and awarded the tender; a situation she said was not fair.
Ms Mkandawire appealed to Government to persuade the Ministry of Education to revert to decentralized procurement system for tenders, saying the current centralized system was open to official abuse.
“It is unfortunate that the ministry has refused to meet us so that we tell our side of the story to iron this entire problem between us,” she said.
And Maiden Publishes chairperson Ntambakwa Kapeso denied that Zambian publishers were not capable of delivering efficient services to the country’s education system. Mr Kapeso said contrary to assertions by ministry of education permanent secretary Dr Patrick Nkanza that they could not offer efficient services, the opposite was true. He was reacting to the on-going controversy between the ministry of education and Zambian publishers which have been left out from a lucrative Government tender to provide educational materials in Zambian schools
Mr Kapeso said surprisingly the same publishers who recently failed to deliver were the ones who had access to the procurement of the tender, and questioned what criteria was used by the ministry for them to qualify for the tender.
He said to date none of the publishers had their contracts renewed as per procedure by the ministry.
The current contract framework stipulates that it is a requirement that for a contract to be renewed the supplier must have performed in the previous contract, which was not being followed.
He explained that in 2012 Government floated a tender for books which was awarded to five publishers on a one-year renewable contract through notification at the end of the year, which meant reward of contract, but nothing had been done.
Mr Kapeso said nothing had been done despite the reference made by the ministry that the contracts for the procurement process would be renewed and that the suppliers would be asked to complete the process.
“What has been happening in this procurement of the new curriculum tender leaves much to be desired because the whole process appears to have been meant to frustrate the effort s of the local publishers,” he said.
He explained that they had existing frame contracts which should have been renewed so that the tenders were awarded.