Monday, December 31, 2012

Police summon Muchima

Police summon Muchima
By David Chongo in Solwezi
Mon 31 Dec. 2012, 14:00 CAT

FORMER lands deputy minister Elijah Muchima has been summoned by Mwinilunga police in connection with the abandoned works at the new Mwinilunga civic centre. But Muchima has branded the summons as political intimidation after being fired last week from the PF government.

North Western police chief Eugene Sibote confirmed in an interview yesterday that Muchima, who is also Ikeleng'i MMD member of parliament, had been called for interviews in the continued investigations over misappropriation of funds amounting to K900 million meant for the district's civic centre.

Sibote explained that police had made headway in the case after interviewing several other people and had also invited Muchima to appear before police today.

"The fact is, there is government money that was intended for construction of the civic centre but right now, there is nothing that has been done," he said.

Sibote explained that the contractor, who is reported to have been introduced to the council by Muchima when he served under local government and housing in the MMD regime, had abandoned the works.

He said police therefore wanted to get Muchima's side of the story as he had been mentioned by some people in the investigations.

However, when contacted for a comment, Muchima said he had nothing to do with the works by Buildtech, whose contract had been terminated following inertia to proceed with the project.

Muchima said he was the one who raised alarm against Buildtech to the then North Western Province permanent secretary Fabian Mumba that the works had stalled.

He argued that when the contract was awarded, he was minister for Southern Province contrary to assertions by Mwinilunga district council secretary Charles Chimwisa that he influenced the awarding of the contract when he served as minister under local government.

Chimwisa told the then North Western Province permanent secretary Dr David Shamulenge when he inspected the site last year that Buildtech, a Lusaka-based company, was introduced to the council by Muchima to construct the K37 billion office complex along Mwinilunga/Ikeleng'i road in early 2011 but the Buildtech abandoned the site the following June after accruing debts of nearly K600 million with suppliers and workers between March and June 2011.

He revealed that government had earlier released K500 million for commencement of works out of which K100 million was allocated to Urban Techniques, a council-approved consultant for the project while Buildtech received K400 million but the contractor only built a foundation to slab level.

"I am not the council. Why should this case come up now? They just want to do it because I am no longer in government. Even if I was minister of local government, what has that got to do with me? I was not there when they signed the contract. I was not there. This is an issue that we have discussed and discussed. They just want to find fault with me. Anyway, I will comply," said Muchima.

Muchima has, however, asked Mwinilunga officer-in-charge Boniface Chilufya to excuse him for some time to attend to some personal obligations and that he would only be available after Thursday, and police have effectively set next Friday for interviews.

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