Thursday, April 25, 2013

Chirwa moves out of Fallsway Villa
By Staff Reporters
Wed 24 Apr. 2013, 14:01 CAT

PROFESSOR Clive Chirwa has moved out of the luxurious Fallsway Villa Apartments in Lusaka where he was lodging and paying K72 million per month.

And President Michael Sata yesterday suspended Professor Chirwa as Zambia Railways Limited (ZRL) chief executive officer, pending investigations by the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) on corruption allegations.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Finance has threatened to withdraw the US$120 million Eurobond fund from ZRL if it is not quickly utilised.
And Prof Oliver Saasa says Prof Chirwa wants to live a lavish lifestyle.

A check at Fallsway Villa apartments where Prof Chirwa was lodged, established that he had since checked out to an unknown residence.
Sources at the apartments located on Thabo Mbeki Road said that Prof Chirwa had moved out around midday just after President Sata suspended him.

The sources said Prof Chirwa had been aware of his suspension because he spent most of the time at State House on Monday.

And in a letter to Prof Chirwa dated April, 22 2013, President Sata said that Prof Chirwa was suspended due to several corruption allegations levelled against him.

"I am suspending you from duty and you will be on half pay; and as part of other conditions, you will have to vacate the lodge and wait in the Zambia Railways Limited accommodation until the matter is completed," read President Sata's letter in part.

"By copy of this letter, the Anti-Corruption Commission has been instructed to carry out full investigations concerning the allegations of corruption."

And President Sata has appointed transport and communications permanent secretary Dr Muyenga Atanga to take charge of the company.

"...this will require you to take charge of the rail line including the inter mine rail, which is so critical to the running of the mining sector," said President Sata in a statement issued by his special assistant for press and public relations George Chellah.

Five former ZRL board members on Saturday alleged several illegal and unapproved actions by Prof Chirwa, including an alleged attempt to shift company headquarters from Kabwe to Lusaka, staying in an apartment that costs KR72,000 per month as well as appointing himself chair of the tender committee of ZRL, which allegations Prof Chirwa dismissed as nonsense.

On the other hand, Prof Chirwa alleged that board officials were claiming allowances whenever they called for a meeting with the permanent secretary and the minister.

The five members, Mark Chona, chairman, Prof Saasa, Geoffrey Mulenga, Irene Mbewe and Jonam Mwansa, dismissed Prof Chirwa's claims.
And Prof Saasa, who was vice-chairperson of the board, said Prof Chirwa's suspension was long overdue.

"If he was left out, that wouldn't have been fair; we just said he should step down to make sure that we, as individuals, do not interfere in the investigations," he said.

"The law should see to it that we are out to make sure that thorough investigations are undertaken. I think the charges that we levelled against him and the charges that he leveled against us are sufficient for the public to know the truth."

Prof Saasa urged the ACC to extend investigations to former board members of the company.

"I feel very happy when I realise that government has stepped in now to do the probe. That should not spare all of us, including Chirwa and myself, to be subjected to investigations," he said.

"To me, this is happy hour. The President is actually endorsing what the board has been saying about the man. He should not be there and there is no way we can justify him to continue at that place."

Prof Saasa said the probe instituted would make the public know the truth about the happenings at ZRL.

"We understand that he has also been ordered to move out of Fallsway apartments. For me, that means that as the board, we have been vindicated because that was only one of the many charges against many. He has also levelled a big charge against us too, where he claimed that we had so many board meetings," he said.

"I don't know how he defines board meetings; which is extremely unfair to us. That allowance paid to us, that is KR2,600, is below the standards allowances in other parastatals. But since it is in the public domain, it would appear as if we are just denying things. It is only the probe that will decide the truth."

And Transparency International Zambia (TIZ) president Lee Habasonda welcomed Prof Chirwa's suspension, saying it would provide an opportunity for both parties to exculpate themselves.

"The development will give Prof Chirwa and dissolved board members chance to clear themselves because the monies involved are too huge to go without proper explanation," said Habasonda.

And works and supply minister Christopher Yaluma said the suspension of Prof Chirwa and dissolution of the board would not affect the operations of ZRL.

Yaluma disclosed that the government would constitute another board soon.

He said the dissolution of the board was done to help the ACC carry out an effective investigation.

"There must be continuity, so the government has put in place contingencies to ensure that we sustain the continuity without at any given point derailing the plans that have been put in place for Zambia Railways Limited. We are going ahead; it is business as usual," Yaluma explained.

Asked to clarify whether the K248 million salary, K72 million per month in rentals as well as an offer of 25 per cent stake in Zambia Railways were part of the package given to Prof Chirwa, Yaluma, who could not disclose the actual contents of the contract, said that the emoluments agreed on were not as exorbitant as the ones claimed.

He, however, said that Prof Chirwa had bargained earlier for an adjustment to his salary and an offer of 25 per cent stake in the parastatal at the end of his contract earlier, which the government rejected.

And finance deputy minister Miles Sampa said the ministry was monitoring the recipients of the US$750 million infrastructure bond, which was sitting idle in some parastatals.

"Obviously, Zambia Railways by now should be implementing and utilising that money but they are more occupied on internal wrangles than implementing the programmes. Even the Ministry of Health, we allocated the funds for UTH and we haven't seen any construction going on there or that they have bought a new dialysis machine or a new CT scan. We haven't seen that happening and yet we have already indicated to them that they have US$29 million. We haven't seen that happen at Kitwe, Ndola or Livingstone General Hospital," he said.

Sampa said the government intended to reallocate the funds to other needy economic areas as opposed to leaving the money lying idle.
"We will be monitoring all the recipients, and if there is any recipient showing a sign of abuse or taking time to utilise the money... this money is not meant to be idle, it is supposed to be ploughed into the economy so that in the long run, we have the desired economic impact on the nation. That is how we will justify it and the spill-over facilities will be able to generate adequate income to meet the cost of this Eurobond. Where we will see recipients delaying or not using the money on time, we will not hesitate to recall those funds and reallocate them to other needy economic areas," he said.

Sampa said the road sector was utilising the money following a warning last year when some money was returned to the treasury.

"The road fund is running out, so they have moved pretty quickly. They have done well from last year when we warned that they were not using the money allocated to them. They are way ahead of schedule in terms of utilisation," Sampa said. "We will not hesitate as a ministry to recall these funds from these state-owned enterprises that are dragging their feet and reallocate them to other state-owned enterprises or projects that we believe can quickly have an impact on the economy."

And on his facebook page, Sampa posted: "As sang by Puff Daddy 'The More Money You Get: The More Troubles you See.' $120M into Zambia Railways, 'Things Fall Apart'. We are sending a boma Auditor to position there permanently. Pali Eurobond; Wina azamangiwa..."

And Zesco managing director Cyprian Chitundu recently said the utility had so far used $30 million of the US$255 million it benefited from the US$750 million Euro-bond for the construction of the 120 megawatts Itezhi-Tezhi power plant while Zambia Railways had not yet started using the US$120 million from the Eurobond as it was in the process of awarding contracts.

On the falling copper prices, Sampa said there would be no impact on Zambia's economy as most of the copper had already been sold at a higher price.

"So the impact on the international market is not instant on the Zambian market. The long-term outlook of copper is that the price will remain relatively stable-to-high, so this is only a short-term setback. We believe the kwacha will be stable and we expect it to strengthen more so with the Statutory Instrument that is coming up in the next few days," he said.

The Statutory Instrument to be signed by the minister of finance is a follow-up to the amended Bank of Zambia Act that would state specifics on the movements of foreign currency.

Sampa said the Statutory Instrument was expected to correct the current anomaly in the amount of money coming into local banks from the exports.

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