By ROGERS KALERO
CHAMBISHI Copper Smelter has pleaded with Government to settle the K1.8 billion owed in unpaid Value Added Tax (VAT) refund.
Company Director, Wei Fan, complained that operations had been affected and that the firm urgently needed the funds to remain sustainable.
Mr Wei said Government should expedite payment of the VAT refund because the company was making losses and needed an immediate injection to improve the cash flows.
He said this in an engagement with Finance Minister Bwalya Ng’andu and his entourage, who were on the Copperbelt for a fact-finding mission on mining operations.
Others in the entourage were Mines Minister, Richard Musukwa, Labour Minister Joyce Simukoko and their Copperbelt counterpart, Japhen Mwakalombe.
“The company is making losses hence the need for Government assistance so that we can deal with cash flow issues. Releasing the pending VAT refund will assist the company with cash flow,” he said.
Mr Wei said that even with the huge amount Government owed, the firm was still determined to work with the Zambian people in fighting the Covid-19.
“Due to the continued increase in cases being recorded in the country, it may pose a serious threat to the company looking at our operations, health and safety of our employees.
“So there is need for screening of drivers by the Government that are transporting copper and acid so as to reduce Covid-19 spread,” Mr Wei said.
On measures the company had after the breakout of the pandemic, Mr Wei said 456 employees were placed on leave last month while 1,343 were on normal duty and in the square community.
“To-date 755 employees are on leave, 118 employees on normal duty and 922 in the square community. For salaries, they get full salaries plus housing allowances.
He said the company was ready for guidance from Government about workers and operations during the pandemic.
“Basic pay starts only in June for non-essential employees. This was agreed with the union and communicated to labour office. With the guidance from the union, all employees in the square community have voluntarily agreed and signed consent letters to stay there,” he said
Me Wei said essential workers in square community were being given full salaries and square community allowances, ranging from K5, 000 to K1,000 depending on their grades.
“They are also given money for talk time ranging from K30 to K300 depending on their grades. They are also given food hampers which comprise of at least two bags of mealie meal, five litre cooking oil to all the 1,795 employees,” he said.
And in response, Dr Ng’andu said he was impressed that the company had decided not to close the mine but to find a sustainable way of running operations.
On the appeals made regarding the VAT refunds, Dr Ng’andu said he had heard the concerns, but would not respond to them immediately
“Well, I have heard your concerns regarding various issues particularly the VAT refund and the Covid-19, but I will not respond just now because I don’t respond to things in a spontaneous way,” the he said.
By ROGERS KALERO