Former Tourism Minister in the MMD government William Harrington on Monday told the tribunal that is investigating Tourism Minister Sylvia Masebo that she breached the law and acted ultra vires on several occasions.
Mr. Harrington told the Justice Roydah Kaoma led tribunal that Masebo breached the Ministerial code of conduct when she fired senior Managers at the Zambia wildlife Authority because firing directors is the preserve of the Director General.
Mr. Harrington also said Masebo erred when she cancelled tenders at ZAWA because that was the preserve of the Zambia Public procurement Authority (ZPPA). He said the ZAWA Act was very special and specific on the role of the Minister.
He said even the dismissal of the ZAWA director general was irregular because the ZAWA Act only allows the board to fire the Director General.
He further alleged that Ms. Masebo gave verbal orders to a Mr. Sensele a District Commissioner to hunt animals without issuing a special license.
And another witness a Mr. Taulino Banda who was in-charge of procurement at ZAWA said Ms. Masebo asked him to cancel duly awarded tenders because she wanted “Black Zambians with round noses to be given the tenders “.
Mr. Banda said when he told Ms. Masebo that there was no such condition in the tender document, he was verbally dismissed from work.
He said Ms. Masebo through a Newspaper publication fired him in December 2012, but he only received his letter of dismissal in February 2013 through his lawyers Erick Silwamba and company. He said up to now he has not been given reasons for his dismissal. On allegations by Masebo that there was corruption in the award of tenders, Mr. Banda said he never came across such information but even if it were true, Ms. Masebo should have reported the matter to law enforcement agencies. Charity Mwansa who was then Permanent Secretary at Tourism was a hostile witness as she was not cooperative to petitioners lawyers.
She however said she acted on Masebo’s orders to sign the letters of dismissal for ZAWA employees.
Mr Banda said there was no provision in the law which allowed a minister to cancel the tender process and call for fresh tenders to be submitted.
He said a new tender was floated and that 19 hunting blocks were advertised and that the Ministry of Tourism prepared the tender document and the only role he played was to ensure that the document complied with the Zambia Public Procurement Act.
He said the tender was cancelled after some bidders reported concerns in the tender process to Ms Masebo.
Mr Banda said he was directed by his supervisor to facilitate the suspension of the tender process to allow the minister to study the process.
But former Ministry of Tourism and Arts permanent secretary Charity Mwansa
who is now ministry of Mines, Energy and Water Development permanent secretary said even though there was no ZAWA board in 2012, Ms Masebo had powers to fire the officers.
She said she is the one who wrote the letters terminating the officers’ contracts on December 30, 2012 because as administrator of the ministry, she was trying to bring legal efficacy to ZAWA.
“I did not act outside the law but the minister and I used inherent powers. I did not break the law but we interpreted the law when writing to the officials,” Ms Mwansa said.
She said her job was to do the right thing by writing to the officers even though the minister had announced their dismissal at a press briefing.
Ms Mwansa said when there is no board at the institution, the institution falls under the custody of the ministry “and I found it fit to sign the letters terminating the contracts of employment.”