THE Government will tomorrow award a US$5 million text book publishing contract to a Ugandan company fronted by a former civil servant who was fired by the Ministry of Education.
Another US$ 4 million will be awarded to four none-indigenous owned companies, including Oxford University Press.
Only one Zambian company will be awarded a contract worth US$4,000.
Zambian publishers have now cried foul. They argue that this award is unfair, unjustified and irregularly contracted.
They want an expert forensic investigation made up of academicians to determine if really Zambian publishers are incapable of producing textbooks when they had done so for decades before.
Mwajionera Publishers Executive Director Alice Mkandawire said local publishers were sick and tired of the deliberate bias and unfair award of contracts by the Ministry “Most of us are being forced to close down because the Ministry prefers foreigners.”
But Education permanent secretary Chishimba Nkosha has insisted that all the five companies awarded the nearly US$10million textbook contract were locally registered and therefore qualified to tender.
“How can Oxford University Press qualify as an eligible company to compete with indigenous companies. Giving contracts to foreign owned companies is exporting jobs and money out of the country thereby forcing local publishers to close down.” They have complained.
Zambian publishers have challenged Government to establish an independent team of education academicians to undertake a forensic to determine if really Zambian publishers were incapable of delivering the Textbooks, when they had done so for decades.
“We understand the Ministry has convinced Vice President Inonge Wina about the integrity of the process, but we wish educationalists to investigate why the Ugandan company should be contracted to print 65 titles to the exclusion of Zambian publishers.” One of the publishers asked..
He revealed that in 2014 local publishers were asked by the Ministry of Education to submit 10 text books in seven local languages which included five text books for teachers and another five text books for pupils “We were made to pay K1,400 for each title. We did this at great cost but nothing has come of that exercise. The ministry if not referring to it” He said.
They have challenged the Ministry of Education to explain the process being used to evaluate books, “What the content is of the books being contracted and what sort of evaluation was undertaken and why is being kept as a secret?” they have asked.
But Ministry of Education permanent secretary Chishimba Nkosha explained that all the five firms awarded the contracted were Zambian registered companies.
The ministry, he said, had never contracted any foreign company and that the antagonistic approach the publishers had taken was a drawback in the operations of the ministry.
“These people went to court some time back to file an injunction after we opened the tenders and the whole process was halted. Fortunately, the court cleared us but they again engaged the office of the vice president and again we were cleared. Sensing that they did not have any backing for their complaints, they now went to the Zambia Public Procurement Authority (ZPPA) to complain and again we were cleared.
“All these unnecessary drawbacks have delayed us from delivering the books that should have been published a long time ago to the schools. If we have used wrong methods in arriving at our decision, how come we have been cleared by all these institutions? These people have now gone to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and the officers from the commission came here last week and we have given them all the documents to that effect and we are waiting for them to conclude their investigations,” Mr. Nkosha said.
“What do they mean by foreign companies? If a company originated in South Africa and established itself in Zambia, doesn’t it qualify to be a Zambian company? We know where the problem is; they don’t want change because initially there was no procurement committee at the ministry because it was decentralised to DEBS offices, a process they abused.