It will be a total travesty and waste of time if investigations into the text book publishing scandal will be limited to the technicalities of the tender. Tenders can be tailored to elicit specific results.
We entirely agree with Bishop John Mambo who has called for a very serious introspection to get to the bottom of this matter which involves the future of the nation through millions of Zambian school children who will use the books currently in controversy.
This investigation must go to the core of the philosophy of curriculum development and subsequent rendition into teaching materials such as text books.
This exercise will require professors from the academic world. It will not do to task investigators from the ACC, to undertake this complicated work as they may have very little understanding of curriculum development and textbook publication.
This is the work of academicians of whom we have in abundance at the various universities. They must examine the nuance and substance of the new curriculum for which the new text books are being developed.
There should be no doubt that very clever people designed the tender that resulted in the award of 65 text books to a Ugandan company. They designed and packaged a tender, with sufficient reason and logic to justify the outcome, however morally flawed.
Any tender that results in one foreign company being awarded 65 books is inherently flawed. Any attempt to justify it is equally an exercise in futility because logic does not support it.
This investigation must go beyond technicalities it must examine and establish the course for national interest. The issue should not be the price of the resultant books, but investment in posterity. In essence Government must invest in developing local entrepreneurship, expertise and job creation.
Exporting textbook publishing, invariably exports jobs while denying the local businessmen an opportunity to develop capacity to publish books. Over the years a number of local publishers have closed down and few have been established because large multinational have dominated the field.
Time has come to reverse the trend. With a new curriculum in place Government through the Ministry of education must combine the exigencies of time and the need to produce indigenous and home grown books in every sense of the word.
We have sufficient installed printing capacity in the country and given an opportunity Zambian printing houses could very easily adapt to meet the needs of text book writers. Given a reasonable assurance of securing business from Government printers will invest in equipment to meet the need.
The emphasis must be to develop indigenous capacity because this will create jobs and ensure that whatever money is invested will be retained in the country. Foreign publishers will externalize their profits at great cost to our foreign exchange reserves.
Time has also come for the Government to rethink the role of the Zambia Public Procurement Authority. Far too many lapses have been allowed, which lapses have sometimes ended up in courts of law thereby delaying projects while costs escalated.
This would be avoided if the ZPPA was proactive and sufficiently empowered to intervene authoritatively where corrupt tenders are involved.
Corrupt officers should not be allowed to get away through contrived and cleverly crafted tenders which are meant to favour foreigners from whom they receive kickbacks.