A witness has told the Lusaka magistrate court that an advance payment of U$33.75 million made to China Energy Engineering Group-Hunan Electric Power Design Institute Company Ltd for the Construction of FTJ University was approved by ex-acting Secretary to the Treasury, Mukuli Chikuba.
Former Chief Accountant at the Ministry of Finance and National Planning, Thomas Phiri, 47, of Libala waterworks in Lusaka told chief resident magistrate, Davies Chibwili, sitting under the Economic and Financial crimes court that it was not then Secretary to the Treasury himself, Fredson Yamba, who approved the payment.
Phiri stated that the payment was instead approved by the then acting Secretary to the treasury, Chikuba Mukuli.
Phiri was testifying in a matter where Yamba is jointly charged with former Ministry of Higher Education Permanent Secretary, Owen Mugemezulu, and former ministry of Education employees, Joseph Nthele, Joseph Phiri and Joseph Ngulube.
The charges are in relation to the infamous FTJ Chiluba University, under the Ministry of Higher Education in Luapula.
Former Ministry of Education Permanent Secretary, Patrick Nkanza, was also jointly charged with Yamba and four others but the court removed him from the group and charged him separately on grounds that his charge was not related to the FTJ Chiluba University.
Phiri said during cross examination that Yamba was not involved in the process because it was an accounting duty.
“I received a call out from Anti-corruption commission (ACC) which invited me for an interview, I was told to explain my responsibility at the Ministry of Finance. I was also required to explain my qualifications and the payment process the time I was at the ministry,” he said.
Phiri said he was shown the documents which included three memos and two foreign payment vouchers.
The documents were relating to down payments of US$33.75 million in relation to FTJ university in Luapula.
When asked further if Mukuli did anything wrong in approving the budget, Phiri said there was nothing wrong.
In the first count, it was alleged that Yamba between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2017, being Secretary to the Treasury in the Ministry of Finance, did willfully failed to comply with the applicable law or procedure relating to the management of funds.
He was accused of authorising an advance payment of US$33, 750, 000 to China Energy Engineering Group-Hunan Electric Power Design Institute Co. Ltd for the construction of FTJ Chiluba University under the Ministry of Higher Education.
In the second count, it was alleged that Mugemezulu between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2017, being Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Higher Education, did willfully fail to comply with the applicable law or procedure relating to procurement in entering into a contract with China Energy Engineering Group-Hunan Electric Power Design Institute Co. Ltd.
The contract was worth US$225, 000, 000 for the design and build of FTJ Chiluba University, without subjecting the said contract to the Zambia Public Procurement Authority for approval.
The court had since adjourned the matter to March 15, for continuation of trial.
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