Zambian publishers have appealed to President Edgar Lungu to urgently intervene in the US$10 million educational textbooks scandal which the Ministry of Education seems determined to award to foreign owned publishing houses.
“The President should ask for a copy of the approved book list and ask when it was sanctioned by the Curriculum Development Centre and how this tender has been packaged,” they have argued.
The President, they said, should also ask for the list of awarded publishers and ask how a bookshop, with no publishing experience in Zambia, has been awarded so many titles to the exclusion of Zambian publishers with decades of experience.
Correspondence, they said, had been backdated to justify the awards which will see the country externalize US$10million because Zambian publishers have been excluded.
They asked why the ministry was failing to explain to Zambian publishers and the general public how they have arrived at the decision to award the contracts to non-indigenous publishers including newly established bookshops.
If this contract was allowed, Zambia would remain mortgaged to the foreign publishers for many years to come through repeat orders which were likely to cost more.
“Let him (President Lungu) ask an independent expert in education from the University of Zambia to be an umpire to examine our case without the influence of technicalities and pre-conditions on which both the ministry and ZPPA seem to rely in denying Zambian publishers an opportunity to participate in textbook publishing,” they have said.
“We are not asking for favours, we are asking for fairness, justice and transparency. Documents are being backdated and the process is being accelerated to avoid scrutiny by the Parliamentary Committee on Education,” they alleged.
‘‘We have tried everything but it seems highly entrenched financial interests are in control of the process; hence not even the Anti-Corruption Commission has bothered to interview any of the Zambian publishers to determine the source of the problem that we are complaining about. If anything our complaint has been lost.”
And the Gallant Youth in Zambia (GYZ) has appealed to higher Government officials to intervene in the controversy in order to deal with the issue once and for all.
GYZ executive director Henry Mulenga said the defiance by senior officials at the Ministry of Education to go ahead with the irregular award of the textbooks contract and the reported loss of information on the complaint by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) was a serious matter which undermined the smooth governance of the country.
Mr Mulenga said the ACC should redeem itself by being proactive in their quest to fight corruption if they have to win the already waning public confidence.
The Daily Nation had been informed that the complaint by Zambian publishers against ZPPA and the Ministry of Education to the ACC had mysteriously gone missing online and the officers had failed to give an explanation on the matter.
This meant that local publishers would have to launch another complaint.
But ACC officials told the Daily Nation that they were not aware of the missing data regarding the complaint.
Mr Mulenga said allegations about the missing complaint against textbook tender to ACC would only bring anxiety among the members of the public who had trust in the commission.
“This is worrisome because members of the public will find it difficult to report their complaints to relevant authorities because of the way they handle reported cases, and this confirms that there are a lot of issues that might be missing,” he said.
Mr Mulenga said the commission needed a clean-up and that the institution should be aware that the nation expected them to be upright and loyal to duty.
“This can go without speculation that may be the commission has moles within its ranks. This demands that powers-that-be must quickly intervene in the matter and speed up the investigation process to conclusively deal with the cases that had been pending once and for all,” he said.
He said it was retrogressive that the Government’s efforts were frustrated by some individuals who only wanted to benefit at the expense of the majority.