Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Simbao summons L/stone RDA officers

Simbao summons L/stone RDA officers
By Noel Sichalwe and Bivan Saluseki
Wednesday July 18, 2007 [04:00]

WORKS and supply minister Kapembwa Simbao has summoned Livingstone Road Development Agency (RDA) officers that impounded a bus belonging to Lusaka businessman Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba popularly known as GBM. And finance minister Ng'andu Magande yesterday confirmed having discussed with RDA officers at Livingstone weighbridge over the impounded bus.

In an interview yesterday, Simbao said he summoned the RDA officers to brief him on what transpired before he could talk to Southern Province minister Joseph Mulyata who is reported to have ordered the release of the bus against the law.

Mulyata is said to have used bad language against, and threatened, RDA workers in order to secure the illegal release of the bus. The bus was released without its owner paying US $2,000 penalty fee for the offence of overloading.

"We have asked the officers involved to come to Lusaka so that they can tell us what happened," Simbao said. "The officers are supposed to come today (yesterday) and then we shall know the story. After that, we shall talk to the minister (Mulyata) and find out what happened."

Simbao also said according to Statutory Instrument number 28 of 2007, the owner of any overloaded vehicle is supposed to pay an appropriate penalty fee on the spot before the vehicle could be released.

"Where an authorised weighbridge officer has found that the vehicle and its driver after corrections is complying with regulations, and or any related payment has been settled, the officer shall give a notification as set out in Form PR 4 to release the vehicle," the Statutory Instrument states. "In case of an overload offence, any accredited weighbridge station on behalf of the Agency (RDA) shall impose the prescribed compensation for road damage to the owner of the vehicle in accordance with the Act. The compensations shall be calculated and charged by an authorised weighbridge officer. The compensation shall be paid on the spot and before the detained vehicle in question can be released. If any dispute on compensation arises, the vehicle shall not be released until the dispute is settled."

And finance minister Magande confirmed being told by the RDA officers about the impounded bus though he did not know that it belonged to GBM. He said he was on his way to Livingstone and just before the weighbridge, one of the trucks had blocked the road and he stopped over to see what was happening.

Magande said the officers explained to him the cause of the traffic and what had happened to the bus and how they were failing to collect the penalty fee. He said the officers told him that the driver by-passed the weighbridge and they wanted the payments for the offence of overloading.

"I did not really have to make any decisions," he said.
Magande said the driver of the bus who was at the weighbridge had been fired. He said it was surprising that someone who had been fired had gone to collect the bus. He said ordinarily, it should have been the owner of the bus to collect it instead of a fired driver.
"I found the issue, they told me," Magande said. "I said 'if that's what the law says, everybody should follow the law'. They must continue to apply the law. I said 'it's a big offence'."

Magande said the overloading and bypassing the weighbridge, as told to him by the officers, was a big offence.

"It's a big offence. That is obviously not very good. I asked him (driver) why did you do it? He said 'I was being obstructed'."

Magande said he did not know Mulyata was involved until the officers briefed him. He said the officers told him that the owner of the bus had phoned the minister over the same bus and the minister was trying to prevail on them. Magande said he even asked the driver if he was aware that his boss had spoken to the officers' boss.

Transparency International Zambia (TIZ) president Reuben Lifuka has demanded that President Mwanawasa take appropriate action against Mulyata for interfering in the work of junior government officers.

Lifuka said TIZ was totally disgusted with Mulyata's apparent interference in the execution of duty by members of staff from the RDA. Lifuka said the fight against corruption clearly was being hampered by such actions and Mulyata should know that he was given the privilege to serve the people and not to abuse his authority by protecting wrongdoers.

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