Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Zambian President Supports Probe Over ZAMTEL Sale

Zambian President Rupiah Banda on Friday said that he welcomed a decision by the country’s chief justice to set up a tribunal to probe Communications and Transport Minister Dora Siliya over her role in the partial sale of the giant state owned telecommunications firm ZAMTEL.

Acting Chief Justice Irene Mambilima said on Thursday that she would set up a tribunal in accordance with the law after public complaints about the conduct of the minister were lodged at the Supreme Court in Lusaka, the capital.

The Zambian Constitution stipulates that the Chief Justice must set up a tribunal to probe alleged misconduct by ministers and Members of Parliament, if a member of the public complains.

In this case, a member of the opposition Patriotic Front (PF) who is also a former minister of communication and transport, William Harrington wrote to the Chief Justice over the alleged misconduct of Siliya in the deal.

Siliya is alleged to have engaged a private consultancy firm based in the Cayman Islands to carry out an evaluation of the assets of ZAMTEL without following tender procedures and ignoring legal advice in the process.

President Banda and vice president George Kunda have both defended Siliya of any wrong doing and instead criticised those questioning the ZAMTEL sale.

But on Friday President Banda said he supported the decision made by Justice Mambilima and directed the Secretary to the Treasury to ensure that funds for the tribunal were made available.

He also urged members of the public to stop debating the ZAMTEL sale so that the tribunal could carry out a professional job and determine whether Siliya was in breach of acceptable procedure by her actions.

Should Siliya be found to have breached procedure, she risks losing her parliamentary seat, which will leave President Banda with no option but to sack her.

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