MEMBERS of Parliament yesterday told the Ministry of General Education to create a level playing field in the evaluation and approval of publishers and distributors of textbooks in order to enable indigenous publishers freely participate as opposed to exhibiting bias towards foreign firms.
This was after General Education permanent secretary Chishimba Nkosha and his Curriculum Development Centre (CDC) members of staff were taken to task by Members of Parliament who demanded an explanation about the textbooks tender controversy following complaints raised by various indigenous publishers.
Local textbook publishers have complained before the Parliamentary Select Committee on Education, Science and Technology that there is no independence and professionalism in the evaluation and approval of publishers and distributors of textbooks in the Ministry of General Education because the Curriculum Development Centre (CDC) members of staff are compromised.
But Dr Nkosha submitted that the evaluation process was independent and transparent.
“The evaluation process of textbooks under the new curriculum has not changed. Textbook evaluation has always been handled by the Curriculum Development Centre, and this process involves realigning the book content to the curriculum and the syllabi,” he said.
Dr Nkosha said the process of book evaluation by CDC ended with books approval.
“The role played by the procurement unit is mainly on the procurement process that is done in line with the provision of the Public Procurement Act No 12 of 2008, and Public Procurement Regulation of 2011,” he said.
Dr Nkosha said allegations against the ministry by the local publishers that it had been awarding the textbooks contracts to foreign companies were not true. He said the true picture was that all the publishers that were awarded contracts were registered in Zambia at Patents and Companies Agency (PACRA) and registered with the Book Publishers of Zambia (BPAZ).
“Most publishers that were awarded contracts were even registered with the Citizens Economic Empowerment Commission (CEEC). All the publishers that were awarded contracts are registered with the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) and had valid Tax Clearance Certificates,” he said.
But Committee chairman who is UPND Siavonga Member of Parliament Kennedy Hamudulu questioned why almost all the indigenous publishers had complained that the evaluation process was not independent and transparent.
The Siavonga lawmaker also wanted to know from the Ministry of General Education why publishers had gone to court if the process was independent and transparent.
But in his response, Dr Nkosha said there was little his Ministry could do if the publishers decided to go court.