Ministers don’t transact – State witness in Siliya case tells court

A STATE witness in the Dora Siliya case has testified that cabinet ministers are not responsible for procurement processes at ministries.
Ms Siliya, 41, of house number 411 Independence Avenue, Kabulonga, who is former Minister of Communications and Transport is charged with two counts of abuse of authority of office.
Acting permanent secretary at Cabinet Office Bernard Kapasa, 44, said at the commencement of Ms Siliya’s case that a permanent secretary is in charge of administration and procurement falls under their administration. He said a cabinet minister is in charge of policy decisions only.
This is in a case in which Siliya, who is MMD Petauke Central member of Parliament, is charged with two counts of abuse of authority of office contrary to the Laws of Zambia.
“According to the Cabinet handbook, procurement powers are vested in the permanent secretary and not the minister. A minister should refer all persons who approach them on matters relating to procurement, to the permanent secretary,” Mr Kapasa said.
He said the permanent secretary, a controlling officer, is in charge of all financial and procurement obligations and not a cabinet minister.
Mr Kapasa said cabinet ministers can only advise the permanent secretary if they feel the controlling officer has made a mistake and the advice should be in writing.
He said cabinet ministers should forward their advice to an erring permanent secretary to the Secretary to the Cabinet who oversees the duties of controlling officers.
Mr Kapasa said Cabinet ministers can assume a supervisory role in a ministry if they follow government regulations  strictly.
And Siliya’s defence team which is made up of Eric Silwamba and Lubinda Linyama, objected to the prosecution’s production of two Zambia Public Procurement Authority (ZPPA) files which contained documents of the Central Tender Committee meeting held on December 5, 2008.
Mr Silwamba said the two files cannot be admitted into evidence because they contained copies and foreign documents from Thales Airs System of South Africa.
This was after ZPPA board secretary Betty Sombe, who is a State witness, submitted as part of her evidence two files and minutes of the 2008 meeting.
State prosecutor Dennis Simwinga said the documents should be admitted into evidence because they are public files and Mrs Sombe told the court that she was the custodian of the files.
Chief resident magistrate Joshua Banda has reserved ruling to July 12.
It is alleged that Siliya between February 20, 2008 and April 20, 2009 in Lusaka, employed as minister of Communications and Transport, allegedly abused the authority of her office, by directing the cancellation of a duly awarded tender.
The tender was for the supply, delivery, installation and commissioning of Zambia Air Traffic Management Surveillance Radar System to Thales Air Systems of South Africa, whose implementation was frustrated and the act prejudicial to the rights or interests of the Government of the Republic of Zambia.
Particulars in the second offence are that during the same period, in breach of laid down procedure, Siliya did accept a purportedly free offer from Selex Systemi Integrati of Italy, for the repair of a radar head at Lusaka International Airport as a result of which government actually paid K1,943,932,360, an act prejudicial to the rights or interests of the government of the Republic of Zambia.

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