Minister of Local Government Vincent Mwale has issued a statement in parliament over the acquisition of 42 fire tenders at a total cost of $42 million which most members of the public say was exorbitant and marred by corruption.
Mwale said ‘Some bids were low but they were offering tanks made of plastic… its value for money we were looking at as well as durability.’
But Reuben Lifuka of Transparency International says Mwale’ statement fails on all fronts. He wondered how this particular company was awarded the contract when it had no experience .
Mr. Speaker Sir, thank you for this opportunity you have given me to shade light on concerns raised by some members of the public following an event on 13th September 2017 at which Her Honour the Vice President of the Republic of Zambia Mrs. Inonge K. Wina officiated to handover the 42 fire trucks to Local Authorities the Government has procure through my Ministry.
Mr. Speaker, I am prompted to make this statement following concerns from some members of the public that the price of US $1 million dollars per truck is too exorbitant. It should be noted, Mr Speaker, that this debate is not new. When this procurement was concluded towards the end of 2015, a similar debate ensued and was stirred by opposition FDD President Ms Edith Nawakwi who claimed that the PF Government had pocketed US $30 million out of the award of this US $42 million contract for the supply of the 42 fire trucks. My predecessor in the Ministry then rose to the challenge to clarify the matter and put the record straight. As it could be clearly seen, Ms Nawakwi’s statement was not substantiated by any facts and the matter was rested.
Mr Speaker, before I proceed to discuss the issue of pricing of the fire tenders, allow me to give a brief historical background to this matter.
On the 4th of May 2012, the late President Michael Chilufya Sata officiated at the commemoration of the International Fire Fighters’ Day in Lusaka and bemoaned, among others, the lack of investment in the fire and rescue services. At this same function, Mr Speaker, President Sata directed my Ministry to decentralise the provision of fire and rescue services to protect the valuable lives of our people and infrastructure in the various parts of the Country.
After this Presidential directive, a United Kingdom based company known as Albion Export Services Limited submitted an unsolicitated bid to supply 63 fire trucks at the cost of US $54.8 million which they later revised in 2015 to US $66 million. Further, Albion Export Services requested that their company be single-sourced to supply the fire trucks with an upfront payment of hundred percent but to deliver the fire trucks over a period of two years.
The Ministry then wrote to the Zambia Public Procurement Authority (ZPPA) requesting authority to direct bid Albion Export Services. On 22nd July 2015, ZPPA responded to our letter and rejected the request to direct bid Albion Export Services but advised the Ministry to use a competitive method to procure the fire trucks.
Consequently, in September 2015, my Ministry proceeded to advertise the tender for the supply of the 42 fire trucks. At the close of the tender in October 2015, sixteen (16) bidders responded. After evaluation of the 16 bidders, Grandview International was the best evaluated bidder with a bid sum of US $42 million after meeting the required criteria as stated in the solicitation document. The list outlining the 16 bidders with the respective amounts has been attached to this statement for consideration.
Soon after Grandview International were notified of the award, four companies, namely Albion Export Services Limited whose bid price was US $49.5 million, Savenda Management Services, DL NAFFCO (Z) Ltd and Albert Ziegler appealed to ZPPA against the decision to award Grandview International. ZPPA heard the appeals within two weeks and rendered its decision thereafter dismissing the appeals for lack of merit. ZPPA also informed the Ministry to proceed with its award to Grandview International.
Some companies also made an appeal to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) against the decision to award the contract to Grandview International. The Anti-Corruption Commission also dismissed the appeal and gave the Ministry clearance to proceed with the procurement process.
The cost of these fire trucks has now become a subject of debate by some quarters in our society. Comparisons of various fire-fighting trucks of different specifications and costs have been made.
I have noted with interest that all those observing that our fire trucks are over-priced are only quoting the lower priced bids thereby creating an impression that Grandview International quoted the highest and yet, while responding to the same specifications, Albion Export Services from the United Kingdom quoted US $49.5 million, which was US $7.5 million higher than Grandview International.
The fire trucks we have procured are no standard trucks. They are custom-made, specifically to respond to the challenges that our fire men and women have been facing over the years in terms of the terrain and other operational areas. In fact, the specifications were developed by the users, who are the fire fighters. The fire trucks were manufactured in Spain based on these specifications.
The fire fighters informed the Procurement Team that some of the challenges often encountered in firefighting were the narrow roads that were difficult to access particularly in unplanned settlements. To respond to this challenge, the new fire trucks are equipped with monitors which allow the fire operators to fight fires from a distance of up to 70 meters irrespective of obstructions along the way. They not only offer added maneuverability in places which are difficult to navigate but also have increased storage capacity for water and special foam. The fire trucks have storage capacity of 7000 litres for water and 1000 litres for foam. On the contrary, the older fire trucks being utilized had no provision for foam and only had a capacity of 5000 litres for water. In addition, the fire trucks have improved extraction equipment to for recue services.
In addition to better capacity, the new fire trucks have stainless steel tanks as opposed to the polythene tanks that the old ones have. The durability of the trucks is further enhanced by reinforced chassis and high ground clearance from the raised chassis. These are just highlights of the broad technical and non-technical specifications that informed the procurement process. I have attached the exhaustive list of specifications for consideration.
Based on these detailed specifications, procurement experts and firefighters involved in the procurement process believe that the bidder was best suited to give us the value for money as compared the other bidders that were not selected. This was arrived at after an elaborate scrutiny of all bids.
The fire-fighting and rescue equipment are an integral part of economic development that would safeguard the economic gains made so far in all-the sectors of our economy. Fire outbreaks have become a common phenomenon in almost all districts in the country for varied reasons. However, the response to such fire outbreaks has in the past been hampered by lack of proper and adequate fire-fighting equipment. This is why Government, through my Ministry, has acquired this state of the art fire-fighting and rescue equipment for all the major districts across the Country especially those with higher population density and increased economic activity.
I thank you.