Friday, May 29, 2009

Teta distances himself, Rupiah from hearses

Teta distances himself, Rupiah from hearses
Written by Margaret Habbuno
Friday, May 29, 2009 5:02:10 PM

LOCAL government minister Benny Tetamashimba has distanced himself and President Rupiah Banda from the procurement of the 100 hearses. Addressing the press at his office in Lusaka on Thursday, Tetamashimba said the insinuation that he and President Banda had received kickbacks from the purchase of hearses for the local authorities in the country were malicious and unfounded.

Tetamashimba claimed that if the leadership of The Post newspaper had consulted about the procurement of the hearses, they would have been told the truth that President Banda and the local government and housing minister had no hand in the matter.

"I know that if the leadership of The Post, especially Mr Amos Malupenga did consult he would have been told that President Rupiah Banda and myself had no hand in its decision and purchase of hearses," Tetamashimba said.

He said the decision to buy hearses, tractors and boats was made by the former local government and housing minister Sylvia Masebo under late president Levy Mwanawasa's reign.

"Issues pertaining to the purchase of the items and how much was spent is a subject of investigations that I have decided to institute," said Tetamashimba who served as local government deputy minister during president Mwanawasa's reign. "By next month I will have nothing to hide to the press."

Tetamashimba said Masebo had revealed to him that she remembered hearses being budgeted for at a cost of K8 billion but that the ministry had now spent K14 billion on the procurement.

"This has been necessitated by the fact that my discussion with Honorable Masebo especially on the hearses, she revealed to me that she remembers the cost not being beyond K8 billion but we spent K14 billion for the hearses," Tetamashimba said.

He said The Post newspapers and other media organisations should find out who was involved instead of insinuating on the matter.

"I therefore appeal to The Post newspaper and the press to know who were involved and not to insinuate that the President and myself are corrupt through theses deals," Tetamashimba said.

Government procured 100 hearses from China's Beijing Auto Works (BAW) operating as Top Motors in Zambia at a total cost of US $29,000 each.

On May 19, 2009, when contacted for comment on the procurement, Tetamashimba said the budget to buy the hearses was prepared before he became local government minister although he was not aware of the procurement.

Tetamashimba said the director of local government informed him that the government had paid about K14 billion for the hearses last year and that the vehicles had arrived in the country.

He went on to justify that the vehicles would be given to the councils to help people in the rural areas because they were in most cases exploited when burying their dead.

On May 20, 2009, Tetamashimba changed his position, saying his ministry paid for the 100 hearses in December last year.

"I am the minister of local government. They [hearses] were bought last year. So for now everything that happens falls on my back. I paid for these things in December. The money was paid when I was local government minister. Don't blame Honourable Sylvia Masebo, it's me. I have got these vehicles and I am going to give to every district," Tetamashimba had said.

And Tetamashimba said UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema had no moral rights to accuse President Banda of corruption.

He said instead Hichilema was corrupt because he was one of the beneficiaries of business during the Frederick Chiluba regime.

"Mr Hakainde is one of the beneficiaries of the Zambia Privatization Agency as he was asked in the Chiluba regime to sell on behalf of ZPA the hotel in Livingstone to Sun Group of Hotels," Tetamashimba alleged. "To me he is the one who is corrupt because the moment he appended his signature of the sale to Sun, he immediately acquired shares and became board chairman."

Tetamashimba said Hichilema should come out in the open and tell the nation the truth about his corrupt practices.

"I challenge him to clear and inform the Zambian people where his morality is," Tetamashimba said.

He also appealed to the donor community not to stop supporting the Ministry of Health because President Banda was fighting corruption in the country.

"I would like to appeal to the donors not to stop supporting the Ministry of Health. This is the time when we need to work as a team because the opposition will take advantage. We want to assure you the donors that MMD is not a corrupt government," said Tetamashimba.

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