By CHARLES MUSONDA
THERE was nothing sinister about then Foreign Affairs Minister Joseph Malanji asking the Ministry of Finance about the progress it had made in securing funding for purchase of property in the Turkish capital Ankara on behalf of the Zambian government, a prosecution witness has testified.
This is in a matter former Secretary to the Treasury Fredson Yamba and Malanji are charged with willful failure to comply with procedure in relation to procurement; and being in possession of property reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime. Yamba is accused of having failed to follow procedure in the procurement of the property while Malanji is accused of possessing houses, a hotel, and a helicopter, property suspected to be proceeds of crime. Testifying in the case before Lusaka Magistrate Irene Wishimanga yesterday, Ministry of Finance director in charge of investments and debt management Gregory Kabwe said it was not illegal for Malanji to call him for updates on the non-concessional loan that had been initially proposed to fund acquisition of the property.
Mr. Kabwe said it is not illegal for a minister to intervene in instances where funding for an approved exercise has not been made available.
He said there was nothing illegal for Yamba to guide that government should not contract the non-concessional loan, according to a Cabinet directive, and that the payment of K108.4 million for the property should be made from the budget.
He said his instruction to the accountant general, after Yamba approved variation of the funds from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the department of investments and debt management under the Ministry of Finance, was to fund the Zambian mission in Turkey and not to pay Malanji.
Mr. Kabwe said Malanji was not working for the mission and that he was Foreign Affairs minister.
Another witness Safira Mutambo Mutti, a principal internal auditor at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the ministry did not play a role in the procurement of a chancery and a block of 11 flats; and that the Zambian mission in Turkey did not follow laid down in the procurement as its threshold of K150, 000 was below the K108 million paid for the property.
Ms. Mutti said the mission’s management should have asked the ministerial tender committee to handle the process.
By CHARLES MUSONDA