Friday, March 27, 2009

Zambian Communications Minister Defends Herself

Zambian Communications and Transport Minister Dora Siliya on Thursday ended her defence before a special tribunal that was set up last month to probe her alleged abuse of office in the capital Lusaka.

Siliya is alleged to have violated the ministerial code of conduct by arbitrarily cancelling a duly awarded tender for the supply of new radars for two airports in the country.

In the second allegation, Siliya is alleged to have awarded a consultancy contract to a firm based in the Cayman Islands without subjecting the award to a competitive tender in accordance with government tender procedure.

In the third allegation Siliya is alleged to have obtained US$2,300 from the Petauke District Council where she is also a Member of Parliament, claiming to have bought water pumps for the local authority when in fact she had not.

The tribunal was set up in accordance with the law, after ten civil society groups and a former minister of communication and transport petitioned to have the tribunal set up.

The petitioners have already brought in several witnesses who have all given testimony against the minister in relation to the three allegations.

Siliya however opted to take the stand herself and denied any wrong doing in the allegations.

She said she attempted to cancel the contract for the supply of the radars after receiving complaints from the public alleging that the radar contract award had been fraught with corruption, but said her attempt was overruled by the Zambia National Tender Board.

She also defended herself on the second allegation by saying that the consultancy contract was approved by the Solicitor General after he made several legal observations.

She denied wrongly claiming the US$2,300 for the water pumps and insisted that she had advanced her personal money to the council and later correctly sought a refund.

The minister had only one witness, an official from Petauke District Council, who defended her of any wrong doing.

The three man tribunal will now pass judgement as to whether Siliya abused her authority. If so, she could lose both her ministerial and parliamentary seats and face prosecution.

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