JACK ZIMBA, Lusaka
GOVERNMENT has dismissed as mischievous claims by expelled Roan MP Chishimba Kambwili that US$273 million meant for digital
migration has been misappropriated.
Chief Government spokesperson Kampamba Mulenga has said that the money being referred to by Mr Kambwili has not even been released yet.
“For the record, it is important to state that the lender, EXIM Bank of China, has not yet released a single cent of the US$273 million loan,” Ms Mulenga said.
“It is, therefore, patently false for Mr Kambwili to suggest that the loan monies have been misappropriated because the money in question has not been released,” she said.
Ms Mulenga, who is Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services, also said contrary to Mr Kambwili’s claims, State House was not involved in reaching the agreement.
“I must state that it is not only mischievous but grossly misleading for Hon Kambwili who served as Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services and was privy to these facts, to deliberately mislead the nation,” she said.
Ms Mulenga wondered why Mr Kambwili had to wait to be fired before speaking out on the project.
“Hon Kambwili should confine himself to his cheap politicking instead of launching a misguided and irresponsible smear and slander campaign against his perceived political opponents to win public sympathy,” she said.
Ms Mulenga explained that the digital migration project is being implemented under two separate contracts and in three phases.
She said phase one of the project was contracted at a sum of US$9,554,124.49, and entailed the erection of digital transmitters and other attendant digital transmission equipment along the line of rail from Senkobo near Livingstone to Chililabombwe.
“The nation may wish to know that this phase was successfully concluded in June 2015,” she said.
Ms Mulenga said Government has made only two payments under the project – a down payment amounting to US$955,412.45 which was paid in August, 2014 and a second payment of US$1,060,969.94, was made to the contractor StarTimes Software Technologies Company Limited of China in March 2016.
“It is important to note that in spite of the successful completion of phase one, two years ago, the contractor is still owed US$7,549,096.65,” she said.
Ms Mulenga explained that although the final operational certificate was rendered on June 8, 2016, no payment has been made yet due to the fiscal challenges facing the treasury.
“As the nation might be aware, the second contract of the digital migration project covers phases two and three,” she said.
Phase two of the project will entail construction of television studios at six provincial centres namely Kasama, Chinsali, Mongu, Kabwe, Mansa and Chipata.
Choma and Solwezi studios are being funded outside the US$273 million loan arrangement.
She said that all the work that has been done so far has been financed from the contractor’s own resources.