Three witnesses testify in K778,000 Kabwe Council irregularity

Three witnesses have testified that former Kabwe Town clerk Vivian Chikoti and her former Director of Engineering Cosmas Mpundu acted outside the Zambia Public Procurement Authority (ZPPA) guidelines in awarding a K778, 100 land survey contract to Geopractica Limited in 2010 as the contract sum was above their threshold.

Before Kabwe Magistrate Chimuka Mutafela were Chikoti and Mpundu who stand charged with two counts of abuse of authority of office contrary to the laws of Zambia.

The duo has denied the charge and insists that the contract was approved by the Kabwe Municipal Council, which was a superior body.

Justin Matimuna, a procurement specialist told the court that under the ZPPA guidelines, any procurement above K500,000 was supposed to be referred to the central tender committee for open tendering unless in emergency cases which dealt with life saving procurement of equipment.

He said that surveying, which fell under the consultancy category had a threshold of K300,000 and that as controlling officers, the duo must have referred the contract to ZPPA.

He said during investigations, Anti-Corruption Commission officers showed him the contract which was signed by Ms. Chikoti as Town Clerk and witnessed by Mr. Mpundu on 1st September 2010.

Mr. Matimuna also testified that the guidelines were stipulated in a circular that was addressed to all controlling officers and heads of parastatal bodies.

But when asked by defence lawyer James Mataliro from Malila Mumba and Partners whether town clerks were mentioned in the circular, Matimuna said they were not addressed.

Mr. Matimuna also said that the ZPPA rejected Ms. Chikoti’s 2011 letter requesting for ZPPA clearance of the said transaction and the communication was done by the director General.  And Wedson Simumba, aged 60 and former buyer in the local authority narrated that Mr. Mpundu asked him as secretary of the district tender committee to call for an urgent meeting at which they were to discuss the tender.

He said he raised objections that there was short notice for the meeting because under normal circumstances, a two weeks’ notice was supposed to be given and documents availed to members well ahead of the meeting but Mr. Mpundu insisted that it was an urgent matter.

He testified that after the meeting was convened, the members resolved that Mr. Mpundu shouldn’t chair the meeting but just be a member.

And Anti-Corruption Commission Legal and Prosecutions Officer Baizale Mangaila said that he conducted a search at Ms. Chikoti’s office after a tip of alleged abuse of authority of office.

He said after the search, a number of documents which included a letter from then acting town clerk, a Mr Mpundu to Geopractica dated 11th February 2010 notifying them of the award of the contract under minute 126/01/2010.

And Magistrate Mutafela carpeted one of the defence lawyers Osborne Ngoma from Lungu Simwanza and company for using unfriendly language in court. This was after ACC prosecutor Martin Mayembe objected to the kind of cross examination Mr. Ngoma was subjecting a witness.

Mr. Ngoma responded that the state was being jittery but Mr. Mayembe protested the language.

The Magistrate ruled that there was need to observe civility and directed the lawyer to retract the word, which he obliged.