Defence minister maintains that president Banda was not involved in arms deal

It is not normal practice for the Ministry of Defence to discuss issues of procurement of equipment and arms in the media because of the security considerations which surround such matters.

However, I am compelled to respond to recent statements by former Defence Minister of Hon. George Mpombo, MP, alleging that His Excellency Mr. Rupiah Bwezan Banda, President of the Republic of Zambia and Commander In-Chief of the Armed Forces, did instruct the Ministry of Defence to procure arms at a total cost of US$100 Million.

A number of people have continued commenting on this matter without ascertaining the truth or indeed verifying such serious allegations with my office.

Further, it is worth noting that Hon. Mpombo only made the allegations against the President after he was arrested for abuse of office and theft following revelations by the Auditor-General that he never retired imprest when he served as Minister of Defence.  Why did it take him such a long time after he resigned to make such a revelation?

I, therefore, wish to state the facts as follows;

1.    The President and Commander In-Chief of the Armed Forces does not order or participate in the procurement of arms for our defence forces.  The President only deals with matters of defence and security policy and strategy. The administrative and logistical activities such as equipment procurement are handled by the Permanent Secretary and respective Service Chiefs.  Neither the President as Commander In-Chief nor State House gets involved in the procurement of equipment for the defence forces. This is wholly the responsibility of the Ministry of Defence and respective Defence and Security Wings.

2.    Procurement of equipment for the Defence Force follows the normal and legally established tender procedures save that the process does not unfold publicly on the open market.  Any procurement is initiated by the Defence and Security Wings following a pertinent needs assessment.

This process goes through the Ministry of Defence Procurement Committee, Zambia Public procurement Authority (ZPPA) and Ministry of Finance and National Planning.  Even after approval is given; a contract will only be signed after the Attorney General Chambers has scrutinized it and given its legal opinion.  In all these processes, the President of Zambia and Commander In-Chief of the Armed Forces is not involved at all.

3.    The Ministry of Defence has not in recent years procured any equipment or arms for the total price of US$100 million.  Records are there at the Ministry of Defence as well as Ministry of Finance and National Planning which will show that Zambia has not procured arms worth US$100 million.

 

In view of the above, it is clear that the President, or indeed the mentioned son of the President, cannot be connected to the supply of equipment or arms to the Ministry of Defence.  The procurement process is very stringent and does not directly involve the Head of State or State House.

It is therefore, grossly unfair and mischievous of Hon. Mpombo to misinform the nation on such a sensitive matter, which borders on matters of defence and national security.  The Ministry of Defence is aware of the excitement which goes with the unfolding 2011 elections campaign.  We should nonetheless all be mindful that issues pertaining to defence and security should never be politicized especially with the use of plain lies as in this particular case.

Issued by Kalombo Mwansa

Defence Minister

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