Saturday, January 14, 2012

Ex-ZRA boss Wisdom Nhekairo faces arrest over cargo scanners

Ex-ZRA boss Wisdom Nhekairo faces arrest over cargo scanners
By Mwala Kalaluka
Sat 14 Jan. 2012, 14:30 CAT

IMMEDIATE past Zambia Revenue Authority commissioner general, Wisdom Nhekairo and board secretary Nana Mudenda are facing arrest over the controversial procurement of cargo scanners from China.

Highly placed sources within the combined team of Zambia Police, Anti-Corruption Commission and Drug Enforcement Commission investigators probing the plunder of national resources, disclosed yesterday that Nhekairo was questioned and subsequently warned and cautioned over the cargo scanners last Monday.

Berlyn Msiska replaced Nhekairo when the PF took over the reins of government power last year.

On Monday whilst former education minister Dora Siliya was being interrogated over the awarding of a tender for the installation of radars at two international airports, Nhekairo was also seen entering the former Task Force on Corruption offices in Lusaka's Woodlands area with stacks of files.

"On that very day when Nhekairo appeared, he was warned and cautioned over those scanners," the source said.

"The docket is just being prepared and he will be arrested by next week."

The sources said Mudenda had also been summoned to appear before the plunder probe team in Lusaka yesterday in connection to the boarder scanners deal.

"Today we are supposed to warn and caution the ZRA board secretary, Nana Mudenda," the sources said.

"The issue is that these scanners were bought from a company called Nuctech in China and this company provided for maintenance and operation costs. There was a warranty involved."

The sources said it was therefore not necessary for ZRA to engage another company called Bradwell International to operationalise the boarder scanners.

"There was obviously pressure from State House," the source said. "To date these scanners have not been installed."

A commission of inquiry constituted by President Michael Sata to look into the ZRA's procurement of the cargo scanners heard on November 10, 2011 that former president Rupiah Banda allegedly arranged for an additional US$ 25m for the procurement of four more scanners.

Acting director for investments and debt at the ministry of finance, Michael Mwanga, had said the idea to procure machine equipment at border posts was initiated by late president Levy Mwanawasa who entered into a US$100 million government loan with China.

Mwanga said Mwanawasa had allocated US$25 million towards the procurement of the four scanners but his successor, Banda allegedly re-arranged another US$25 million in addition to procure four more scanners.

He said due to single sourcing of the company that procured the scanners, the government was forced to lose over US$4 million.

"Probably that is the price the government will continue paying if it continues to single source contracts. If this contract was open, each scanner was going to cost US$2 million from France and not US$6 million each as they were purchased from China," Mwanga said then.

A senior ZRA official told the Commission during a sitting at Chirundu Border Post that it was irresponsible for the MMD government to contract Bradwell International to operate the cargo scanner at Chirundu border when ZRA had the capacity to carry out the work.

ZRA Chirundu border assistant commissioner Arnold Nkoma said it was unwise for the MMD government to contract Bradwell International, a private firm, to run operations that bordered on the country's security.

The MMD government before leaving power engaged Bradwell International of UK to operate border x-ray cargo scanners for 10 years despite having some ZRA staff undergoing specialised training to handle such operations.

Bradwell International of UK, through its local subsidiary, Border Protection Company Zambia Limited (BPCZ), was engaged through direct bidding (formerly single sourcing) to operate the border scanner at Chirundu.

Under the contract, Bradwell was supposed to get 85 per cent of the revenue collected at the border while the remaining 15 per cent went to the government.

Former vice-president George Kunda hastily signed Statutory Instrument number 101 of 2011 on August 28, 2011 as an amendment to the customs and excise Act to pave way for the introduction of an examination fee, which is not a tax but a charge towards the management of the scanners.

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