A FORMER deputy director at the Electoral Commission of Zambia has been jailed two years for receiving a bribe amounting to US$90,000 in the granting of a contract to supply and deliver election materials in 2006.

Mpundu Mfula, who was ECZ deputy director for information technology, was sent to jail by Magistrate Ruth Chilembo after the court established that the prosecution had proved its case beyond doubt.

Mfula was found guilty of receiving US$90,000 through a Mauritian firm – Aeron Limited – for the supply of election materials and desks among other items.

This was related to a contract between ECZ and a South African Company called Universal Print Group (UPG).

Mfula was charged with one count of corrupt practices contrary to section 29 (1) and Section 41 of the Anti-Corruption Act no.42 of 1996.

Sentencing Mfula, Ms Chilembo said she was satisfied by the prosecution evidence that the convict was a public officer who corruptly solicited, accepted, agreed to receive and obtained US$90,000 cash gratification for the supply and delivery of disposal booths, tables and chairs.

The magistrate said it was not in dispute that the US$90,000 cash gratification was an inducement or reward for doing or for bearing to do anything in relation to a matter of transaction.

It was also not in dispute that documentary evidence and witnesses produced in court pointed at Mfula as being at the centre of the US$90, 000. Ms Chilembo said Mfula was in court because he was the one present at ECZ during the awarding of the contract to UPG regarding supply of materials.

She said there was overwhelming evidence against Mfula and that she was satisfied that the prosecution had proved its case beyond doubt and she found Mfula guilty as charged and convicted him accordingly.

In mitigation, Mfula asked the court to exercise maximum leniency on him as he was a first offender. He said he was a public officer who served under ECZ for 30 years and once sent to jail his family would suffer.

But Ms Chilembo said the offence Mfula committed was serious and attracted a maximum sentence of 14 years. However, Mfula was granted bail pending a High Court appeal in the sum of K30,000 in his own recognizance.

Ms Chilembo ordered police to take Mfula to remand until he met the bail application conditions.

Particulars of the offence were that Mfula on unknown dates but between May 1 and 31 December, 2006 being a public officer at the ECZ received US$90,000 cash gratification for the supply and delivery of election materials.

Around December 2006, Mfula’s private company Venturefin received 90,000 US dollars (equivalent to K350 million) from Aeron Limited of Mauritius, of which K200 million was used at Venturefin, while the remaining K150 million was given to Mfula in cash.

Mfula controlled 60 percent of Venturefin although the shares were held by his sister, Elizabeth Chishimba, because has was a civil servant.

The then opposition Patriotic Front party at the time insisted that the ballot papers contract awarded to Universal Print Group (UPG) in Durban should be cancelled due to suspected corruption by ECZ officials.

Kabwata member of Parliament Given Lubinda, who was then chairman of African Parliamentarians Network Against Corruption, challenged the ACC to deny being aware of Vik Vaid, UPG special projects manager – who managed the printing of Zambia’s ballot papers – but no action was taken.

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