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GOVERNMENT has started the process of partially privatizing Zamtel because it has no funds to recapitalize the company.
And Parliament yesterday heard that some Zambian businessmen offered to bribe Minister of Communications and Transport Dora Siliya so that her ministry could give them a new mobile license at the expense of Zamtel.
Presenting a ministerial statement in Parliament yesterday, Ms Siliya said her ministry has since engaged RP Capital Group to carry out a valuation of assets of Zamtel and provide transaction advisory services.
Ms Siliya said many companies approached her ministry with an interest to purchase majority shareholding in Zamtel and that others applied for a whole new mobile license.
“After various consultations, it was clear that the immediate task for the ministry was to undertake a valuation of the assets of Zamtel to ascertain the true value of the company on the open market. In this process, time is of the greatest essence so that we do not continue to subsidize Zamtel at the expense of the citizens,” she said.
She said mobile phone service costs in Zambia are among the highest in the region due to Zamtel’s inefficiencies and monopoly of the international gateway. Ms Siliya said Government could not enter into any commercial agreements with the companies that were expressing interest because of inadequate information.
She said she needed to take the information to Cabinet to seek formal approval to partially privatize Zamtel. She said the Zambia Development Agency (ZDA) would oversee all the aspects of the implementation of the privatization program.
She said on September 19, 2009, (SURE?) RP Capital Group of the United Kingdom (UK) met with ministry officials, members of the Zamtel board and management, ZDA and Zamtel union officials.
Ms Siliya said the company introduced itself as an entity that could assist Government in addressing issues regarding the asset valuation of Zamtel and possible sale of Government’s stake in the company and to provide transaction advisory services.
She said the ministry requested RP Capital to submit a formal expression of interest.
The minister said none of the companies expressed interest to undertake the valuation exercise except RP Capital Group.
She said as provided for in the public procurement Act, RP Capital Group was selected on the basis of limited selection tender process and that pursuant to circular No. 1 of 2009 effective December 12 2008, the ministerial threshold for consultancy services was K7 billion.
She said the memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed on December 22, 2008, after the new procurement Act came into effect. Ms Siliya said the first phase of privatizing Zamtel related to services to value Zamtel through a MoU, while the second phase involved the actual sale which would only take place upon Cabinet approval.
“It is after this that a legally binding instrument would be entered into,” she said.
The minister said it was after the advice of the Solicitor General, who dealt with issues pertaining to the MoU, that Government signed it on December 22, 2008.
Ms Siliya also said guidance given by Attorney General Mumba Malila had not been ignored and would be taken into account at an appropriate time. The minister said at no time had her ministry paid US$2 million to RP Capital Group or their associates as reported in one of the newspapers.
She said the impression created in the media that Government had been irresponsible to commit tax-payers’ money without due consideration was false. Ms Siliya said while Government was a true believer in press freedom, the media should be responsible and practice self-regulation.
“This self-regulation must take into account our peculiar culture and norms as Zambians and our social and economic development needs,” she said. Asked whether there were Zambian companies or individuals who had applied to purchase shares in Zamtel, Ms Siliya said a number of them did.
“One of the people who wanted to have new mobile licenses was Mr. Fred Mmembe of The Post newspapers,” she said. Ms Siliya was responding to Kantanshi MP Yamfwa Mukanga (PF) who asked whether Zambian companies and individuals had applied.
And Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Mutale Nalumango guided members of Parliament against talking about people who could not defend themselves in the house.
This was after Sinazongwe MP Raphael Muyanda (UPND) said Mr. Mmembe had proved to the House and the nation that he was a dangerous criminal.
Mrs. Nalumango interrupted Mr. Muyanda, saying MPs should be careful about how they talked about people who were not in the house to defend themselves. – Zambia Daily Mail
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